Are your children quiet and shy? Or, are your children outgoing and boisterous? Do they have a challenging time making friends?
According to Leslie Hundt, Program Coordinator for Ebenezer Child Care Centers with locations in downtown Milwaukee, Oak Creek and West Allis, “Being shy or being outgoing isn’t a bad thing, it just means that your children may need a little extra support when meeting new people and making friends. Sometimes children are afraid or come on too strong when starting a new friendship. Taking the time to talk with your children about how to form relationships with other people will help them form those lifelong friendships they need.”
Lead by Example
Children are always watching their parents and other adults, so as adults we should have friends over and do fun things with them, so our children can learn by example. Hosting a family game night with another family provides a non-threatening opportunity for children to see a how one family interacts with another and how much fun it can be.
Go to your local library and check out books about friendships that you can read together and discuss what friends do together and how to be a friend. The same suggestions apply to watching children’s television shows or movies together.
Talk with children about how to approach other children and ask them to play. Some children are hesitant to ask for fear of rejection. Others are very bold and go up to strangers with no fear at all. There is a way to do both. Talk to your children about what they could say. Also, talk with your children about what to do if the other child says no which will happen. Let them know it is okay. Just find a new playmate or something else to do instead!
Host Play Dates
Host regular play dates for your children to get to know other children. Begin by having a single classmate or child from your neighborhood or school over. Having the play date last less than two hours will help prevent the children from getting bored or worn out.
Plan with your children by brainstorming activities they can do together. Stay involved in each play date you host by helping get the activities started, serving a snack to the children or answering questions to let the children know you are available, if they need you.
After the playdate, talk with your children to find out what they liked, what was difficult for them and what they would do differently for the next play date.
“The key is to create a safe space for them to work on building friendships,” says Hundt. “Be patient and give it plenty of time.”
“The important thing to remember,” adds Hundt, “Is that making friends is an important part of developing children’s socialization skills. Even though it might be more difficult for some children than others, making friends is a critical life skill that needs to be developed. If you continue to see your children struggle at making friendships, the next step should be seeking professional help.”
Every Ebenezer Child Care Center focuses on all aspects of a child’s development: cognitive, physical, emotional, and social. In addition to providing quality care, the agency also offers other educational programming all aimed at helping parents.
The agency has locations in downtown Milwaukee, Oak Creek and West Allis. The agency’s central office is located at 1138 S. 108th Street, West Allis. For more information, please call 414-643-5070.