Children Sitting TogetherSome children struggle to make and keep friends. You can use this list of pointers to help your child develop social skills. The conversation can also be a springboard for discussion of the many ways of enjoying other people’s company.

  1. Let someone know you’d like to be a friend. When you see someone you want as your friend, walk up to her, smile, and greet her by name. People like to hear their own names and to know that other people are glad to see them. If you’re not sure what to say after you’ve said hello, ask the other person a question about the activity you are both engaged in. For instance, you could ask her opinion of the gym class you are both taking or of the lunch being served in the cafeteria. You could also invite the other person to do something with you. This works especially well if you are picking up after a group meeting or helping prepare for some event.
  2. When your friend is talking, listen without interrupting. Ask questions so you understand better what happened and how he felt about it. Nod from time to time to show that you are listening. You can also say a word or two such as “Really?” or “Wow!” It’s okay to say, “Something like that happened to me once,” but don’t change the subject to make the conversation about you.
  3. Know what things are important to your friend. Give her what she likes and avoid what she doesn’t like. Show her that you are paying attention to her preferences. Put your friend’s birthday on your calendar. Remember that she loves pistachio ice cream. Ask about her kitten. If you remember what she has said, she will notice.
  4. Thank your friend if he does something nice for you. If he does something really cool, say that you thought so. People like to be thanked, complimented, and appreciated.
  5. Do nice things for your friend when you can. You could share or lend her something that you know she would enjoy. You could save her a seat at a meeting or in the cafeteria. You could also call or text her with the homework assignment if you know she’s sick. Try inviting her to go to the movies or the mall with you. Invite her to a sleepover or your birthday party.
  6. Be loyal. If you are unhappy with something your friend has done, tell him directly rather than talking to other people about it. Don’t criticize him to others. Stand up for him if you hear others saying mean things about him. Show that you are proud to have him as your friend and that you will not listen to others talk junk about him.
  7. If your friend tells you about her problems, just listen. Don’t interrupt your friend when she is talking. If you have questions, speak up, but don’t give advice unless she asks you for it. If the situation worries you, say, “Is there anything you want me to do?” Then wait for the answer. It’s up to your friend to decide what she wants next.
  8. Rather than ask your friend very personal questions, wait until he decides to share the information with you. People need to feel safe before they tell others private stuff. Your friend may worry that you will not accept him and be supportive if you hear things that bother him, for example, about himself or his family. People don’t like to be criticized.  Your friend needs reassurance that you will not try to make him say or do anything he says he doesn’t want to do.
  9. If your friend gives you personal information, don’t repeat it to others. Personal information is private. When people talk to you about their families and things that worry them, they show that they trust you. It is up to them and not you to decide whom to share it with. You can tell your parent(s), but otherwise you need to keep silent about it—unless the situation puts someone in danger. If it does, then it’s important to tell a parent or other responsible grownup about it.
  10. When you and your friend disagree, make sure you understand her point of view. Ask her questions until she says you understand. Then go ahead and say what you think, but don’t insist that you are right. Usually there’s more than one way to look at a situation. It’s okay for people to have different opinions. At the end of the conversation you can always say, “Well, I guess we don’t see eye to eye on that. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.”
  11. Let your friend know that his friendship is important to you. Tell him so. Call him or text him: “Just checking in.” Ask about his important news. Share yours. Let him know your feelings. Studies have shown that when you share personal information, the person who’s listening feels closer to you.
  12. If you and your friend become angry with each other, calm down before you talk about it. Don’t sit down to talk as long as either one of you seems likely to hurl insults, start calling the other person names, or make destructive remarks. Be sure you each get a chance to say how you feel and what bothered you. Figure out together how to solve the problem so that it doesn’t happen again. Try to find a solution that is good for both of you. In the process you will be reminding yourselves and each other that your friendship is important and worth preserving.
  13. When you hurt your friend’s feelings, show that you know what she thinks you did wrong. Say you’re sorry. Mean it and promise to avoid the problem in the future. Then ask, “What can I do to make things right between us?” Sooner or later friends always argue or hurt each other. All of us must know and be able to tell someone else what we need to put an insult or injury behind us. The friendship gets better when each person cares enough to talk about the problems, try to understand the other’s point of view, and solve them jointly.