Often parents express the concern that their child has no or few friends. This can happen at any age. Whether the child is six or sixteen, parents may be tempted to become involved in trying to change the situation. When is it appropriate to do so, and when should parents hang back, and let things be?
The first question to be addressed is how the child feels about the situation. If the child feels lonely and isolated, then parents need to try to help. However, if the child is quite content, the issue should not be forced.
We are all different, and some children are loners at different stages of life. A child may be more introspective, and love spending time alone pursuing his or her interests. Creative or intellectual development often happens during quiet times, when the child is alone with his or her own soul. Often very bright children require higher levels of stimulation than that available with their peers. In many cases, as young adults they establish deep and enduring friendships with kindred spirits. These children should not be made to feel that something is wrong with them because they do not spend more time socializing.
Sometimes children need a respite from being in a school filled with students all day. They just need some quiet time. They may have a need to spend time with siblings and parents, because familial bonding nurtures and strengthens them. We must allow each child to find his or her own comfort level of interaction within and outside of the family.
If a child clearly wants more involvement with friends and is having difficulty creating that, there are several ways we can help. First, we need to observe how the child interacts with others. Demanding and controlling, or mean behavior will push others away.
We can talk to children about what it means to be a friend, and what makes others want us for a friend. Being kind and friendly, sharing, and showing an interest in others are good ways to start. Inviting others to participate in activities shows them you want to be friends.
If lack of friends continues to be a problem, it can be helpful to talk to the child’s teachers, to see what is happening at school. If the issue does not become resolved despite your best efforts, a couple of visits with a psychologist who works with children can be very helpful.
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