1. Is it common to worry about children’s friends and 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 worries can be especially common as children become more independent and more interested in making their own friends – for example, when they start school.
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.
2. My child came home from school and said ‘No-one likes me’. What can I do?
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, they might need some help talking about their feelings or they might prefer some quiet time. When your child is ready to talk, you can ask what happened and why your child thinks no-one likes them.
Sometimes there’s a simple solution. Your child might need to learn the rules of a new game so they can join in, or your child might need some things to say so they can invite others to play with them.
If it seems to be an ongoing problem, you can talk with your child’s teacher to find out more and get help. 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, or a buddy bench in the playground.
Depending on your child’s age, you might also be able to arrange some after-school playdates with a classmate to encourage friendships.
You could also work on your child’s self-esteem and confidence to join in with play at school. One way to do this is by focusing on your child’s strengths and efforts.
3. Is it OK that my child has only a few friends?
Yes. Some children are happy with just a few close friends, or even one friend. Your child doesn’t need to have a large group of friends to feel happy, confident and accepted.
If your child wants to make more friends, our article on supporting school-age friendships can help.
4. Why does my child seem to play with different friends each day?
In the early years of school, children often play with different children across the week. This is because they haven’t yet narrowed down their preference for particular children. As they get older, school-age children tend to have one or two close friends, plus a wider group of friends that they also play with.
Your child might move from one friend or group to another until they find someone who shares their interests.
Our article on play has more information about how school-age children play together, as well as some of the games they like to play.
5. We’re new to the area. How can I help my child make friends?
A good first step in making friends is for your child to meet and talk with children that they don’t know. Some children might need to practise doing this. For example, you could help your child practise saying, ‘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.
- Consider involving your child in an out-of-school activity, like sport, drama, craft or music. This can help your child meet other children who share the same interests. Let your child help choose the activity.
- 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.
6. My child argued with a friend at school today. How can I help my child sort it out?
At primary school, children often have disagreements with their friends, but they usually sort them out quite quickly.
When your child comes to you with a friendship problem, spend some time talking and listening. This will help you find out what’s happening.
Then you could suggest ideas for sorting things out. For example, if your child’s friend is playing with someone else, your child could play with other children in a larger group. You and your child could role-play how to join in. Or if your child said hurtful things, you could role-play saying sorry.
If you’re concerned, talk to your child’s teacher to find out more. If there’s a bigger issue, you can work with the teacher to sort it out. Our articles on building a relationship with your child’s school and problem-solving for parents and teachers have tips.
7. My child doesn’t talk about their school friends any more. What can I do?
If you’ve tried talking with your child about their school friends and they don’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, talk to the school about what can be done to stop this. You can read more about bullying.
- Suggest 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 like Kids Helpline – call 1800 551 800.
8. My child isn’t invited to as many parties and playdates as other children. Should I be worried?
No, not really, particularly if it isn’t bothering your child. There are many reasons why your child might not be invited to a lot of parties and playdates. Perhaps your child has a smaller group of friends or your child’s 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 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 to spend time with your child. Talk with your child about which children they’d like to invite and help your child invite them.
Supporting your school-age child’s friendships is a great way to get to know children at your child’s school and encourage healthy friendships.
If you’re still concerned, you can talk with your child’s teacher to find out what’s happening at school.
9. My child gets very upset about friendships. What can I do?
If your child has a lot of trouble making and keeping friends 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.
10. My child has additional needs. How can I help with friendships at school?
Just like typically developing children, children with additional needs like developmental delay, disability and autism can build friendships and healthy school relationships from shared interests. If you encourage your child to follow their interests, this gives your child a chance to meet other children who enjoy the same things as they do.
Playing and having friends involves many different skills – taking turns, sharing, listening and being sensitive to other children’s feelings. You can help your child by practising these skills together at home. Playdates can also be a good way for your child to practise these skills with some help from you.
Talk with your child’s school if you think that your child’s physical challenges or learning difficulties are making it hard for your child to make friends.
You can read more information in the following articles: