Learning how to make and keep friends is an important part of growing up for your school-age child. Having friends is good for children’s self-esteem, wellbeing and ability to get along with others. Here are answers to 10 frequently asked questions about children’s friendships.
Yes. Parents often worry about whether their children have enough friends, are happy in their friendships, are getting along well with other children and so on. These concerns are normal as your child becomes more independent of you and more interested in his friends. You’ll probably find that other parents with children around the same age share some of the same concerns.
Supporting your school-age child’s friendships is a great way to get to know your child’s friends and might also help put your mind at ease.
But if feeling worried or anxious is getting in the way of your everyday life, it’s a good idea to talk to your GP or health professional.
This can really tug on your heart strings. No-one likes to feel this way, and no-one wants a child to feel this way – but it happens to most children at one time or another.
When your child tells you something like this, she might need some help talking about her feelings or she might prefer some quiet time. When she’s ready to talk, you can ask what happened and why she thinks no-one likes her.
Sometimes there’s a simple solution. Your child might need to learn the rules of a new game so he can join in, or he might need some things to say so he can invite others to play with him.
If it seems to be an ongoing problem, you can talk to your child’s teacher to find out more about what’s happening. Schools often have ways of helping children to feel included – for example, ‘buddy’ programs where an older student is the ‘buddy’ of a younger student.
You could also work on your child’s self-esteem, so she has the confidence to join in with play at school. One way to do this is by focusing on your child’s strengths and the effort she puts in.
Not necessarily. Some children are happy with just a few close friends, or even one friend. Your child doesn’t need to be the most popular child in the class to be happy, confident and accepted by other children.
If you want to widen your child’s social circle, our article on helping your child connect with others has some tips.
Yes. Your child might move from one friend or group to another until he finds someone who shares his interests.
School-age children tend to have one or two close friends and often a wider group of friends that they also play with. These friendships can change quickly.
Our article on play and learning for school-age children has more information about how children of this age play together, as well as some of the games they like to play.
A good first step in making friends is for your child to meet and talk with children that she doesn’t know. For example, you might teach your child to say, ‘Hello. My name is Veronica. I have a dog at my house. Do you have a pet?’
Here are some other tips:
- Give your child plenty of opportunities to play with other children. This could be a playdate with other children from your child’s class at a family gathering or at a local park.
- Join one or two out-of-school activities, like sport, drama, craft or music, to help your child meet other children who share the same interests.
- Ask at school about strategies for helping new children fit in – a buddy system, for example. For more tips, read our article on moving schools.
- Look up local activities and services for families on My Neighbourhood.
At primary school children often have disagreements with their friends, but they usually sort them out pretty quickly.
When your child comes to you with a friendship problem, start by spending some time together and finding out what’s happening.
If the issue is with one friend, it’s usually best to avoid calling the other child’s parents, at least at first. Try giving your child some suggestions about how he could sort things out. You could also role-play what to do and let him have a go. For example, if your child has argued with a friend you could role-play saying sorry. If someone else is playing with his friend, you could suggest games to play with other children in a larger group.
If you’re concerned, talk to your child’s teacher to find out what has happened. Our article on building a relationship with your child’s school has tips on communicating with teachers and getting involved in the school community.
If you’ve tried talking to your child about her school friends and she doesn’t want to talk, here are some things you can try:
- Get some more information about what’s happening at school by talking with your child’s teacher. Teachers often see what happens in the playground and can give you a clear picture of what’s going on.
- Is your child being bullied? If so, it’s a good idea to talk to the school about what can be done to stop this. You might like to read more about bullying.
- Suggest some other people your child could talk to – for example, aunts or uncles, close family friends, a trusted sports coach or religious leader. You could also suggest a confidential telephone counselling service for children such as Kids Helpline (1800 551 800) or Kids Helpline web counselling.
No, not really. There are a lot of reasons why your child might not be invited to lots of parties and playdates. Perhaps he has a smaller group of friends or his friends do after-school activities or are in after-school care.
It’s also good to remind yourself that your child doesn’t need to be the most popular to be happy and confident.
But sometimes a playdate at your house can break the ice with a new friend (and parent) and might lead to an invitation. So make time to have children come over to your house and spend time with your child. Talk with your child about which children she’d like to invite and help her invite them.
Supporting your school age child’s friendships like this is a great way to get to know children at your child’s school and encourage healthy friendships. If you’re still concerned, you might want to talk to a professional.
If your child has a lot of trouble making and keeping friendships or gets very upset or angry about socialising, you need more information about what’s going on.
By supporting your school-age child’s friendships and getting to know your child’s friends, you can find out more about what’s happening and why.
But you might also want to talk to a professional. Ask your child’s teacher whether there’s a school counsellor who could help. Your GP can refer you to professionals in your area who can help you and your child. You can also look up support services for families in your area on My Neighbourhood.
Just like typically developing children, friendships and healthy school relationships for children with special needs can start from shared interests. If you encourage your child to follow his interests, this gives him a chance to meet other children who enjoy the same things as he does.
Playing and having friends involves lots of different skills – taking turns, sharing, listening and being sensitive to other children’s feelings – and you can help your child by practising these together at home.
You can read more information in the following articles: