Friendships are an important part of a child’s life. More than just playmates, friends serve as companions, confidants and allies and provide social and emotional support and stability. Forming friendships with peers doesn’t always come naturally to all kids. Language and social skills—the ability to communicate well, use suitable words, share stories or jokes and understand nonverbal cues—are key to the ability to form friendships.
The average school-age child has about five close friends, though some kids need and want friends more than others. Boys often prefer a group of pals who have similar interests, say baseball or a card collection, and tend to “run in a pack.” Girls are more likely to have one or two best friends, although these special friends may change frequently. You may be concerned if it appears your child has no friends, especially if your child feels lonely or inadequate. If your child struggles to form friendships with peers, try these strategies:
- Talk to your child’s teacher. He or she may offer suggestions or identify other kids who share similar interests with your child. Or you may learn that your child has odd habits at school that make him or her the butt of jokes or bullying.
- Help your child be a joiner. Seek out activity groups where your child will meet other kids with similar interests, like a craft or science club, sports team or karate classes.
- Arrange a play date. Ask your child to invite a classmate over for an afternoon. On the other hand, an outing to see a movie or sporting event may be easier for your child to host because these events require less interaction.
- Develop strengths. Target your child’s talents and desires to develop a skill that will help with fitting in. Perhaps sessions with a tutor, coach or teacher can help your child hone an athletic or creative skill.