Friendship Building Tips
- Greetings and Questions – Try to make a habit of practicing different greetings throughout the day, model good listening skills, and take turns asking and answering open-ended questions, for example, “How are you?”
- Respecting Personal Space – Learning about the personal space needs of others is a skill that will benefit your child throughout their life. Try using hula-hoops or your arms to demonstrate the concept of ‘personal bubbles’ and move around the room trying not to touch each-other’s ‘personal bubble’. If your child is overly affectionate, try teaching them to replace hugs with high-fives or fist bumps.
- Levels of Voice – Encourage your child to listen and match the level of your voice. Imagine your voice has a volume dial and practice turning the volume up and down
- Dealing with Rejection – Children who are learning new social skills and meeting new friends will inevitably experience rejection at some point. As a parent, we can be ready to support them when this happens. Remind them of all of their wonderful qualities that make them the amazing child they are, and encourage them to continue to practice their skills of meeting new people.
- Reading and Responding to Social Signals – Communication is so much more than just words. Body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, and volume of voice are all used when we communicate. Social signals are the variety of ways in which we communicate using our body language and facial expressions. Help your child learn common social signals. Use visuals, pictures, social stories, books and your own face to teach different expressions.
Big Emotions When Making Friends
- Patience – Learning how to wait for a turn in play or a time to speak in conversation is an important social skill. Play board-games and use timers at home to practice taking turns.
- Flexibility – Help your child make compromises using “First/Then” statements. For example, “First we play my game, Then we play your game”.
- Communicating Strong Emotions – Practice acknowledging and accepting your child’s emotions and teach them healthy ways of expressing them. For example, “When we are mad, we can stomp our feet like dinosaurs”. Daily meditation and deep breathing practices are good ways to help our children regulate.
It is important to offer our children opportunities to practice their newly learned social skills.
- Find a Parent Support Group – connecting with other parents in similar situations can provide opportunities to grow your child’s social circle, in a supportive and loving environment.
- Schedule Play Dates – set up the environment by making a list of activities and have the children take turns selecting the activities out of a hat.
- Look for Inclusive Clubs and Social Groups – check out local community organizations that foster inclusive environments.