Every February we target friendship because it is International Friendship month and February 11th is “Make a Friend” day. Making the month of February a great time to target friendship!
We have found that making a friend is not easy for children with social communication disorders. There are many reasons for the difficulties children may experience when making friends. Often times we find that the children are not quite sure what to say or do to initiate a new friendship. Or, they may have difficulty differentiating between the different levels of friendship. Many times we have children say that another child is their “BFF” when actually the child is just an acquaintance or a child in their class. Here are some ways to help children learn to make friends.
- Talk about what being a “good friend” means. We have a life lesson free download on our Social Butterflies Club PRO member site that breaks it down. Join SBC Pro Here! Read and discuss the story with your child.
- Read about friendship. There are many books available for all children’s reading levels that target friendship. Here are a few but there are MANY more at the library.
- BEST, BEST FRIENDS by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
- FROZEN NOSES by Jan Carr
- HALF A WORLD AWAY by Libby Gleeson
- RAYMOND AND NELDA by Barbara Bottner
- SIMON AND MOLLY PLUS HESTER by Lisa Jahn-Clough
- WHAT’S CLAUDE DOING? by Dick Gackenbach
- DEAR ICHIRO by Jean Davies Okimoto (Gr. 4-6)
- FRIENDS by Elaine Scott (Gr. K-3)
- HEY, NEW KID! by Betsy Duffey (Gr. 2-4)
- LENNY’S SPACE by Kate Banks (Gr. 4-6)
- MRS. KATZ AND TUSH by Patricia Polacco (Gr. K-3)
- MY ROBOT by Eve Bunting (Gr. K-2)
- Talk about current friends. Ask your child these questions:
- Who is your favorite friend to play with?
- Why do you like “(friend)”?
- What is your favorite thing to do with ”(friend)”?
- Make a play date that revolves around the favorite thing the friends like to do together.
- Have your child help plan the play date. Brainstorm ideas for what to do and when to do it. Kids love to help!
- Be sure to have your child invite the friend. You can give them a script like “Would you like to play cars with me?” or “Can you play LegosⓇ today?” and help them practice saying it.
- It’s always better to do play dates on neutral territory without siblings if at all possible. Often a child who struggles socially may retreat to his/her room if the play date is at their house. Siblings can also confuse the situation taking over the play date or talking for the child.
- Talking about their friends can also be helpful for older children. Ask them these questions:
- Who are your 2 closest friends?
- Why do you like them?
- What does it mean to be a good friend?
- What would you change about your friendship?
- Watch a movie about friendship. Believe it or not, watching some of these light hearted movies is a good way to discuss friendships. Here are some ideas:
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rowley and Greg are best friends but they have some ups and downs throughout the series.
- Any of the Harry Potter movies are good choices. Hermine, Ron, and Harry are good friends who stick together through everything.
- Clueless and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: These are good friendship movies for girls but should be watched with your child as there are some dating topics.
- Plan “hangouts” for older kids. Of course older kids won’t call them “playdates” but the premise is essentially the same. Find a place and similar interest to create a time to get together.
- If your child doesn’t have many friends or is looking to make new friends, I recommend finding clubs with your child’s interest. The library or community recreation center are great places to look for various “clubs” that can range from LegoⓇ to MineCraftⓇ, Dungeons and DragonsⓇ to knitting. Putting your child in a group with other kids who like the same thing is a recipe for a successful friendship!
- Explain the different types of friendships. Often children get confused with best friends and just acquaintances. Social ThinkingⓇ does a great job explaining the levels of friendship with their “Friendship Pyramid”. Everyday SpeechⓇ also has a “Relationship Ruler” that does the same. Here are the simple categories of friendships:
- Acquaintance or Familiar Person
- School/Work Friend
- Good Friend/Close Friend
- Best Friend
Remember, your child does not need a whole gang of friends! Studies show that just one good friend helps to prevent bullying and increase self confidence in a child. I tell all of my clients that the goal is to have 1-3 good friends that you can count on. Also, it is important to be a good friend as well! That is covered in my Kindness is Contagious Blog.