Children aren’t born knowing how to cooperate, share and communicate. These are learned skills, and parents play a big role in helping children learn them. Many of the skills of good friendship must also be learned. When children struggle with them, parents can help by playing a coaching role.
Different children have different needs for friendship coaching. Some may need no help at all. They are naturally outgoing, quick in learning the give and take required for friendship, intuitively understand the needs and emotions of others and can manage their own negative emotions.
Making conversation—Teach them the kinds of questions that tend to open up a conversation (sharing likes and dislikes, asking about pets), about not interrupting or hogging the conversation and the kinds of responses and body language that help show interest and keep a conversation going.
Showing empathy and compassion—Responding with genuine concern when someone shares a concern or problem, asking how they feel and expressing support are all important tenets of any relationship.
Compromise and negotiation—A child who insists on getting their own way every time will have a tough time making and keeping friends. Explain and demonstrate to your child the benefits that come from being flexible in interactions.
The best time for this coaching is in one-on-one time with your child, perhaps reflecting on experiences at school or on a play date. Role-playing with your child, with you pretending to be another child, can be an effective coaching technique. While adult intervention may be needed during a play date to cool emotions and keep play or disagreements from becoming too physical, it’s usually better to do that using distraction or temporarily separating the children, rather than teaching children social skills in each other’s presence.
Behavioral Health Systems is the parent company of Safety First.