Making friends is one of the biggest challenges in a young child’s
life. Making friends is one of the biggest challenges in a young child’s life. As a parent, you can help your little one engage with other children and make them want to play with her. Here are a few pointers to help you guide your child.
- Making contact. Simply explain to your child that she can go up to other kids gently, smile at them and say hello, and look them in the eye. You can also tell her it’s important to look at others who approach her to make friends. It can be helpful to act out imaginary situations with your child, such as: “Let’s imagine we’re going to the park and you see one of your friends there. How are you going to greet him?” You can also give your child some ideas for making the first move, like these suggested by Annie: “Whenever we have friends or family over, I always suggest that my daughter Camille shows the other kids her toys. After a few minutes they’re all playing together!”
- Making requests. You can encourage your child to use words when he wants to play with a friend or borrow a toy: “Do you want to play with me?” or “Please will you lend me your toy?” To set the example, you can request things from your child, such as : “Please could you bring me an apple?” or “May I borrow your book?” Also remember to praise your child when he requests something nicely.
- Accepting no for an answer. With any request, there’s always a chance of refusal. “It’s therefore important that your child learns to take no for an answer and to cope with feelings of frustration,” explains Claire Gascon Giard, from the CPEQ. “Children need to understand that they cannot always have what they want right away.” To help your child manage her frustration, it’s useful to teach coping strategies like taking deep breaths, naming her feelings, turning to another activity or repeating her request later on. It’s also good to help her overcome her disappointment by saying, for example: “You would have liked your friend to come over to play, but he’s sick. I know you’re disappointed, but there must be something else you can do instead. Do you have any ideas?”
Kids’ squabbles: should you get involved?
It’s best not to take sides, especially if you don’t know who started it or what happened. The best thing in these situations is to guide the children so that they settle their conflict themselves. You can start by naming the problem, for instance by saying “You both want to play with the same toy …” and then asking each of them to express what they feel without accusing the other. To help them understand each other, you can also suggest that they try to imagine what the other one is feeling. Finally, ask them if they have any ideas on how to solve the problem. You can give them pointers, but they should come up with their own solution. Obviously, if they’ve come to blows, you need to intervene there and then by separating them and telling them this kind of behaviour is unacceptable. Once they have calmed down, you can act as a mediator to help them understand that they could have settled their squabble differently.
- Waiting in turn. Your child will need a lot of help with this at first. Instead of simply saying “Wait!” it’s better to let him know exactly when his turn will come. Say, for instance: “Next it’s the little girl with the red coat, then the boy just in front of you, and then it will be your turn.” You can also use board games to help your child learn how to wait, as Catherine, Emily’s mom, explains: “Since Emily is an only child, it’s tempting to let her go first. But sometimes we make her start after us so she learns that she can’t always have the first turn.”
- Listening to others. It’s important to explain to your little one that when someone is speaking we should look them in the eyes, listen to them with our ears, and not speak at the same time. Ideally you should repeat this often and above all praise your child when she listens attentively to someone. And because it’s good to lead by example, don’t forget to listen to your child when she’s speaking, too.
- Sharing. Learning to share takes time. Around the age of 2, your child will usually only want to lend a toy in exchange for another. At 3 years old, he is more willing to share, but it’s still hard for him. It’s not advisable to make your toddler share a toy that he’s particularly attached to, or to punish him when he doesn’t share, since this can make him become more possessive about his things. It’s better to say: “You’ll lend your teddy to your friend when you’re ready to do so or when you want to play with something else.” If your child sees that you respect his choice, he’ll be more willing to share. Or, you can suggest that he lend another toy instead. “When he shares, point out how happy he made his friend by lending him that particular toy,” suggests Claire Gascon Giard. “The praise will encourage him to do it again.” The more your toddler plays with other children, the more he will learn to share.
- Finding solutions. It’s best to let your child find her own solutions to problems. To get her used to doing this, you can suggest she puts herself in the place of characters from a favourite book or TV series. Ask, for example: “What would you do to solve this problem? Could the little girl find another way to do it?” When a problem crops up in one of her games, ask her to describe the problem, then encourage her to find a solution. Suggest some ways she might do this, if necessary.
Are children who don’t attend daycare less socially adept?
“Children who stay at home can learn good social skills with their parents and their siblings,” says Lise Lemay, professor in UQAM’s Faculty of Education. “But it’s also good to give them opportunities to play with and meet other children by taking them to the park, a drop-in daycare centre, or activities at the library. This helps them get used to being in group situations.”
Moreover, children who receive very little stimulation at home, who have behavioural difficulties or whose parents are going through stress or other problems do benefit from attending daycare. For children like these, it can have a positive effect on their social development.