Growing up in a difficult neighborhood made it hard for me to find friends that were appropriate. For that reason I made poor choices concerning the type of people I hung out with. Unfortunately, this had a snowball effect in the decisions I made down the road. Though I did not have a lot of guidance, I eventually learned to deal with people in a social environment. When I had children of my own, I wanted to make sure they never experienced the same trials and tribulations I had as a child and young adult. Through my education and work experience, I found that a parent can help shape their child’s social skills by scheduling get-togethers and one-on-one play dates.
According to Children’s Friendships, “The difference between a child with a close friendship and a child who wants to make friends, but is unable to can be the difference between a child who is happy, and a child who is distressed in one large area of life.” Now as a mother of four who homeschools, I can tell you that it is crucial to make sure that my children have other children to communicate and socialize with. As a previous daycare owner, you may be thinking that maybe my children were able to develop friendships right in the center; however, it truly isn’t that easy. I supported my kid’s efforts to make positive relationships with other children by the following two keys.
1. It is important for a parent to step back and realize that the way children treat others depends on their age and stage of development; however, every child should recognize the “Golden Rule.”
2. It is also important for a parent to understand young children can become better friends if the parents are willing to help them learn about themselves and each other.
Setting aside time is tough with our busy lifestyles, especially when you have a large family like me. Even though school children are around other kids, individual get-togethers are the only times a child can get to know each other without interruption. If you are like me, you probably have a packed calendar and wish there was more time in the day. Here is a list of four tactics that helped me add more time in my week for my little ones to have playmates over.
1. Cut back on the electronic activities. I know you are probably biting your nails, wondering if your child can cope without the computer, television, and video games. But trust me; if you are inviting a friend over for them to play with, I’m sure they can deal without technology for an hour or two.
2. Drop activities that don’t produce friendships. Outside activities can be fun, but if they are not producing friendships for your children, how fun can it be for them?
3. Let go of an activity that takes up too much of your time. I know that it would probably be easier to just invite a friend over and then send the little ones outside to play, but as a parent it is important for you to chaperone. If you are involved in a women’s group, that takes too much of your time away to have play dates, maybe these activities are not the best for your family.
4. Buy interactive toys to share with his or her friends. There are so many toys out there today, you can get lost in the toy isle. However, the good old baby dolls, board games, and action figures will allow children to share their interests and role play.
Remember: Some children prefer to be alone, while some may need one or two friends, and yet others need to be surrounded by company continuously. Every child is different. Try to encourage relationships, but don’t force them.
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