If your child is shy, then you know how hard it is for them to make friends. Try these tips to help them step out of their shell.
Even the most outgoing among us have felt a moment of shyness. And while some people grow out of being shy, it’s important to remember that forcing your child out of their comfort zone can be more damaging than anything. This is why it’s important to take slow, small steps when trying new things and meeting new people. If you can tell that a situation is too much for them, don’t push it. Instead, be understanding and let them know they can try again when they feel ready. Try saying something like, “It’s okay if you feel too uncomfortable to play with them today, you can try again next time.”
You should ask your child if they would like you to help them make friends. Some children don’t mind that they have little or no friends, others may want friends but can’t seem to make them. Try to understand how they feel, maybe they are anxious and watch other kids play without joining in. Or they play contently by themselves on a crowded playground. Every child is different, and a kid who feels no desire for friends does not have to have them.
Help your kid understand what a good friend is. Talk about one of your friends and what makes them a good one. Teach them what to look for in a friend not only so they can be a good one themselves but also to help them avoid making friends who are not good for them. Shy kids who yearn for friendship can be vulnerable to toxic friends.
Sometimes your child is a ball of energy and talks non-stop at home but when they are in a group of people the seize up. It might be easier for them to loosen up in smaller groups like a music class versus larger ones like the park. Check online for kids events near you that don’t draw large crowds and see if that environment helps your child feel more at ease. If you can’t find small enough settings, make your own. If you have friends with children close in age to your own or nieces/nephews, offer to take them to the park or lunch for a quick play date. Try to keep the number down to one to three kids, and make the outing short in case your child is uncomfortable they don’t have to be for long.
School is a place that causes a lot of anxiety for introverted children. If your little one is struggling to make friends with their classmates, let their teacher know that you’re concerned and see if they can create opportunities where your child is with a student they think they may get along with. Maybe they can sit at the same table or be partnered up for projects. If your child does have a couple of kids in their class they are on friendly terms with, see if your child would like to invite them out for an afterschool trip to laser-tag or the movies. Spending time away from other kids and doing something fun is a great way to build bonds.
Try using your child’s interests to help them make friends. If they enjoy swimming maybe they will make friends at swimming lessons, or maybe they would like to be in girl/boy scouts. Try different things to see what they enjoy.
No matter how hard it is for your child to make friends, the most important thing is for you to support them and encourage them to focus on being themselves. Not everyone has a lot of friends, and eventually, they will meet other kids who they like, it just may take time and the right environment.