As a parent, it can be so very heartbreaking to see your child struggle to make friends. Friendships are an integral part of childhood, offering important opportunities for social and emotional development, and when your child just doesn’t seem to be able to click with any of their peers, it can be devastating for you both.
The good news is, this is often a problem you can solve together. Below, you will find some of the most common reasons why a child may struggle to form close friendships, and what you can potentially do about it, so you can hopefully help your kid to make a friend or two.
Shyness and social anxiety
Some children are naturally shy or experience social anxiety, which can make them hesitant to approach other children or to join in with games and activities amongst their peers. This can make it much more difficult for them to make friends at any age.
The solution: Encourage your child to engage in social situations gradually, starting with smaller, less intimidating settings. Practice social interactions at home and reassure them that it’s okay to feel nervous. With time, their feelings of shyness and anxiety should hopefully lessen.
Sadly, many children with autism have a much harder time of making friends than the average child. This is because they are often shy and scared of being vulnerable. They also find it more difficult to develop the social skills necessary to attract friends with ease.
The solution: First of all, if you suspect your child may have autism, it would be helpful to get an official diagnosis. Once you have done this, putting them through something like ABA Therapy by Accel Therapies, which can help them to gain confidence and develop positive new behaviors, could help them to make good friends in the future.
Poor communication skills
Good communication is essential for making and maintaining friendships. Children who have difficulty expressing themselves or understanding others might struggle to form connections with their peers simply because they cannot articulate what they think and feel.
The solution: You can play a vital role in improving your child’s communication skills. First and foremost, try to encourage them to have long conversations with you where they can practice their communication skills in a non-judgemental environment. You should also try to read together and role-play social scenarios for the same reason. Professional speech and language therapy can also be beneficial if communication issues are significant.
Difficulty reading social cues
Social interaction involves a complex interplay of verbal and non-verbal cues. Children who find it hard to interpret these cues may inadvertently upset others or feel left out themselves which is not conducive to making solid friendships.
The solution: Help your child understand facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice through games, books, and discussions. If your child is on the autism spectrum, professional interventions like Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can be especially helpful.
An inconsistent social environment
If a child moves schools frequently or their social environment is inconsistent, they might struggle to form lasting friendships quite simply because they are never in one place long enough to really connect with anyone.
The solution: Try to provide as much stability in your child’s life as possible. If changes are unavoidable, help your child understand that it’s okay and prepare them for the transition. Encourage them to use technology to stay in touch with old friends, while also helping them to meet new people by enrolling them in activities they may enjoy that enable them to be around their peers.
Children tend to befriend others with similar interests to their own, so if your child has interests that are a bit unusual in comparison to the other children in your area’s interests, they might struggle to connect with their peers as effectively.
The solution: Encourage your child to join clubs or groups that align with their interests. This can be a great way to meet like-minded peers and is a far healthier solution than trying to make your child change to fit in with the average. You may also want to teach them the value of shared activities and finding common ground with others while still enjoying their own thing, too.
It’s tough when your kid doesn’t have many friends, but as you can see above, there are lots of thighs you can do to help them change that if they want to, and doing so will enrich their lives significantly. Good luck.