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What can I do to ensure my child makes friends easily when he / she begins school?

This is a common concern for parents, but it is usually unfounded, as most children do make one or more friends when they begin school. Having said that, it’s never too early to start teaching your child social skills. Eventually, most children will pick up on social cues and will develop social skills on their own. However, with a bit of effort, parents can assist with this process to help their children develop age appropriate social skills. Spending time with your child and role modeling good social skills are essential. Providing your child with ample opportunities to interact with other children through play dates, play groups and pre-school will also help. Supervising these interactions is essential, and using conflicts as teaching moments is an important step. Conflicts are bound to arise as children don’t naturally cooperate with one another, and thus need to be taught this skill.

For example, toddlers need to be taught not to hit, and how to share and take turns. Pre-schoolers need to be taught to control their emotions, how to join a group, and to cooperate with others. Elementary children need to learn how to be empathetic so they can be kind to others, and they need to be taught how to solve friendship problems positively. Adolescents, who are developing from children into adults, are learning a whole new set of relationship and communication skills. In fact, an entire childhood is an ongoing social skills program that prepares children for successful relationships as adults. Remember, your child and his/her friends, are still learning how to be a “good friend,” and there will be mistakes and conflicts along the way. Discussing these mistakes and learning from them, along with brainstorming ways to solve problems together with your child, will prepare your child well.

Jane Thompson comes from Adelaide, Australia, and is the mother of a three year old girl. She is also a trained middle school teacher and school counselor. She currently works as a school counselor at an international school in Tokyo.

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