Your preschooler is kind, silly, creative, fun, and all around amazing. So, why are you watching him sit alone at your neighbors pool party? It’s not because your preschooler has cooties, you just need some tips on how to help your preschooler make friends.
SET AN EXAMPLE
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Monkey see, Monkey do?” You are your preschooler’s best example in life, and friendships. If they see you treating people with kindness, then they are much more likely to do the same.
Learning how to treat others is an important part in developing friendships. Here’s some things you can do to help teach your preschooler about kindness, and respect.
- Smile at strangers
- Say Please and Thank you
- Donate old toys
- Volunteer at a food bank
- Help someone you see struggling
- Make a gift for their teacher or loved one
CREATE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT
You are your preschooler’s safe place, and they need to know that you’re going to be there for them if they get overwhelmed. There are some important things you should do so your preschooler knows you have their back.
Take Small Steps
It’s important not to push your preschooler into something they’re not ready for. It’s a good idea to start out with a playdate in your own home so your preschooler can feel comfortable in their environment and focus on having fun with their new friend.
Never put your preschooler down for having a problem in a social situation, or they may never be able to overcome it. Instead, talk to your preschooler about what’s going on, and see if you can come up with a solution together.
Knowing you are right there if they need you will help your preschooler feel more at ease in a new situation, making them less likely to want to leave. If you drop your preschooler off at a classmate’s birthday party they may begin to feel anxious, which could lead to behavior problems, and ultimately wanting to leave the party. If your preschooler leaves every event they attend, then they aren’t likely to create friendships.
WORK ON SOCIAL SKILLS
Teach your preschooler to “Treat others how you want to be treated.” Even in preschool, nobody wants to be friends with the bully. Here’s some things you can teach your preschooler to build their social skills, and avoid the playground blues.
- Boundaries are important. We don’t touch others, or take their belongings, without their permission.
- Sharing is Caring. It’s Important to learn how to take turns with toys.
- “I’m sorry” can go a long way. If your preschooler can apologize when they are wrong, they’re much more likely to keep a friendship.
- Patience is a virtue. It’s important that your preschooler can wait their turn so that all of their friends get a fair chance.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO JOIN IN
If you notice that your preschooler is hanging back and watching the fun, rather than joining in, it might be time to intervene. Suggest to your preschooler that they ask someone if they would like to play with them, or if they can join in on a game with others. Your preschooler may be hesitant to go up to someone if they are shy, and that’s okay, don’t push them if they aren’t ready.
One of the best ways to get your child involved, without pushing them, is by suggesting a group game or activity. If your preschooler has friends over, and they’re all staring at each other from opposite sides of the room, check out TicTacTeach for some great games to break the ice.
At the end of the day, remember that your preschooler may be small, but that doesn’t mean their problems are. There’s a variety of different reasons your preschooler may be hesitant to make friends, and it’s important to address the reason before trying to solve the problem by force. Here’s a few reasons children tend to hold back on social interaction:
Fear of Rejection
Rejection is something that is feared by children and adults alike. If your preschooler has had any past experiences with rejection it can make it even harder for them to want to try again. Teach your preschooler that rejection is a part of life sometimes, and they have to keep trying in order to succeed.
Unfortunately there’s always a bully, even in preschool. If your preschooler has experienced any type of bullying it can be extremely damaging to their fragile self esteem. Talk to your preschooler and see if they will open up about how the bullying made them feel.
This is a great chance to talk to your preschooler about how bullying is wrong. It’s also important to help your preschool rebuild any lost self esteem or confidence, so they can keep moving forward and realize that not everyone is a bully.
If your preschooler is having an unusually hard time socializing, it may be due to anxiety. Yes, even children can suffer from anxiety, and it can be very overwhelming for them. If you think your child is dealing with anxiety, visit their pediatrician to find out about all the ways you can help. Look out for these signs of anxiety in your preschooler:
- Avoiding social situations
- Trouble sleeping
- Refusing to be away from parent