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Our Favourite Tips to Help your Children Make Friends

Making friends is something that some people do easily, but others find more challenging. This skill can be developed over time, as it is a skill that we need well into adulthood. Forcing friendships amongst children can backfire, but giving them the skills they need to forge their own friendships is invaluable

 

We are all individuals and making friends will be a different experience for each of us.  You may be someone who has hundreds of friends, or you might be able to count your friends on one hand. Share the importance of friendships with your children and let them see how those friendships add to your happiness. The following are ways that you can help your child become a better friend, and open the doors to future friendships that just might change their lives. 

Teach children to be open and receptive

Simply being bold enough to say hello to someone or respond when they say hello shows openness and a willingness to continue a conversation. When a child looks away or mumbles something back (even without meaning to) they are sending the other child a signal that they are not interested in speaking to them. Teaching children to look up when people are speaking to them, make eye contact and respond clearly at an audible level are the basic skills they need to move forward.  For very shy children these things can be difficult to do so role-play and practice may be necessary. Don't scold them for not doing it as this will make them revert even further into themselves, simply offer encouragement and give them opportunities to practice with people they know and in situations that are not too overwhelming.

Teach children to be kind

"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." a wise Thumper once said.  Teaching children to be kind and compliment things will bode well for the future. We are all quick to criticise and complain but we are less likely to compliment someone on a job well done.  This is something your child will learn from you as a role model.  If you criticise everything that happens to you, they will pick up on your negativity and use of language, so try to model kindness in all that you do, from offering to hold a door open for someone to simply praising the food someone made for you, rather than picking fault. 

Find common interests

Finding an activity that your child enjoys will help them find friends with common interests. If they like playing football, or collecting Pokémon or performing a play - find local groups they can join where they will meet other people with common interest. Common interests are one of the simplest barriers to break through when your child is attempting to make friends. If can be as simple as noticing a child in their class who has a similar toy, or a sibling of the same age. Children bond over the simplest things. 

Have fun

If it feels like work, who would want to get involved? Planning playdates that involve an element of planned fun and an element of time for the children to find their own fun is important. Playdates that are planned form beginning to end can end up being tedious for both children and adults alike. Think about the last conference you attended - is there ever really enough time for networking?  You'll find out things about your child's interests that you'd never know if you let them go off and find their own fun. 

Teach your children empathy

Understanding how someone else might  feel in a situation and how your behaviour might affect them is a tough skill to learn, but one that is priceless in the future. Empathy will help them build relationships as they grow up and will help them to be insightful adults who have a genuine interest in the happiness and wellbeing of others. You can do this by asking questions when you watch TV, "How do you think Dora felt when Swiper stole her backpack?", or by asking how they would feel if something they see happens on  the playground were to happen to them.  This is a hard skill to teach, but when you succeed you'll be able to tell. 

Put others before yourself

This can be taught in many ways, but if you teach your child to be a good host or hostess, they will learn to think about others before taking their own needs into consideration. Some will argue that this is detrimental in certain situations, but as a general rule, it's important. Simple things like making sure everyone has a drink before they get one for themselves, or asking what everyone would like to watch on TV before assuming everyone would like to watch the same thing as them. This is another skill that they will learn from your example. In some ways this is also easier to learn with people who are not in their peer group.  If you have friends around for tea, have your child offer the biscuits around before they take one for themselves. 

Build confidence

When you are out in public places, build your child's confidence in simple interactions. At the grocery store let them hand over the money or ask for the number of bags you need.  Go through the conversation beforehand so they can practice and then let them take the lead when the time comes. The same goes for paying in a restaurant, or giving money to a busker.  We have fewer and fewer social interactions as the world becomes more and more automated so make use of the opportunities that still exist and foster your child's ability to have conversations outside of their comfort zones. 

Remember that being quiet is ok

We all have days when we just want time to ourselves and when you push us to interact the result is not always positive. Pay attention to the situation and learn to read how your child responds in different environments and with different people. Build on this knowledge. If your child goes very shy in a room full of strangers, don't force them to be extroverted. Instead, build their confidence in other environments when you find they excel. 

 
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