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Social kids

11 January
Posted by:
Michael Grose

The happiness and well-being of most children is strongly linked to their ability to make and maintain friendships. When children start primary or secondary school, or just move into a new class one of their prime tasks is to negotiate and form new friendships.

Forming friendships can be stressful for some kids. It can take up a great deal of their mental energy. That's why kids can very get tired when they return to school for a new year.

Here are 5 ideas to help your child develop more friendships in the new school year. Encourage them to:

1. Be accepting. Some children close themselves off from kids who are not like them. This is quite common for late primary and early secondary school-aged girls. As a parent encourage tolerance in your children at all times.  As the old saying goes "You can't judge a book by its cover."

2. Be involved. The more activities kids are involved in the more they will come into contact with others. This in turn increases the likelihood of forming friendships. Get your kids off the couch and into sports and other leisure activities so their social circle widens.

3. Be friendly. Get your kids to practise friendly behaviours including greeting others with enthusiasm, being positive, keeping secrets, and generally acting like a good friend should. These small but friendly behaviours sometimes take effort but the results are usually always worthwhile.

4. Be sensitive to others. Help your kids develop an awareness of how their behaviour and their words can impact on others. A sensitivity to the thoughts and feelings of others can start at home. "How would you feel if someone did/said this about you?" is a good place to start. When you promote empathy in kids you also developing better life partners as well. But that's further down the track.

5. Be social risk-takers. Encourage your kids to take social risks. That is, encourage them to enter situations where they may experience rejection, encounter unfriendly kids or where they don't know anyone. Let them conquer their fears and realise that rejection may be temporarily uncomfortable but the sun will still rise tomorrow.

Making and keeping friends is perhaps a bigger issue for girls than boys. It's also a bigger issue for children with special needs. They may need more one-on-one coaching from you to help them negotiate the many and varied social situations that arise. You also may need to take things slowly, using the 'baby steps' approach with kids who struggle in social situations.

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