A few tips to help your child make some friends this summer during Covid.
Kids playing at the beach/ Canva.com
July 30 is the International Day of Friendship, a great day to be grateful for the friendships we have and make new ones! With places opening up this summer after a rough pandemic year and a half, making new friends may become a little easier this summer.
However, making friends can be challenging for many children, particularly when most of their school year was spent with remote learning at home, preventing much-needed social interactions with their peers. This is especially true if they are an only child, have learning or physical challenges, or are on the autistic spectrum.
The good news is there are ways adults can be supportive in helping a child make friends during the summer! They can:
1.) Practice social skills and keep all communication open with the child.
Mom and son converse during lunch./ Wix Media
Children first learn social and communication skills from their parents, guardians, and caretakers, so it is important to make sure a child is being demonstrated these abilities at home.
Make sure your child feels comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings - both positive and negative - to you and can be heard without harsh criticism or punishment. That way, they have a better understanding of how to effectively communicate with their peers.
2.) Provide a positive play/social environment.
Child and babysitter play a phone game./Shutterstock
Find or create a play space or environment where your child can meet new friends! This can include setting up a play date, going to an outdoor pool or playground, sending them to a summer camp, or even hiring a babysitter a few years older to come over and play with them. The latter is especially important as a child can have social peer interactions with children a bit older than them, while still developing communication skills.
3.) Initiate and encourage play interactions.
Two children play together./Wix Media
Some children are timid when meeting new people and may need some encouragement. A great way to do this is to first scope the play area to see if any children are playing by themselves or playing an activity your child finds intriguing.
Then, walk your child over and introduce yourself and the child to the other child and ask if they can play with them. If the child says yes, make sure your child is comfortable with them, then leave them be and watch the magic happen!
You can also have your child bring a simple toy to share - like a ball, truck, doll, or action figure - to the play area and watch the children come to them! Make sure you, the adult, are always at a safe distance where the child has the autonomy to play with their peers, but can still see and come to you if they need to.
4.) Unplug! Encourage play free from electronics.
Children running outdoors./Wix Media
Try to limit TV, computer, and video game time to encourage more social interactions outside and creative ways to pursue them. It's all about getting them out of their comfort zone to learn how to interact with their peers, which will be helpful to them in the long term.
These are just a few ways to help a child make friends this summer. While we are still in a pandemic and still need to practice social distancing and mask guidelines, there are still possibilities to ensure a child has the opportunity to have social interactions needed for their social development.
I hope you find these tips helpful, and wishing you all the best in your child's friendship seeking success!
Dewar. Gwen. "How to Help Kids Make Friends: 12 evidence-based tips".https://parentingscience.com/kids-make-friends/. 2020.
"Kids Who Need A Little Help to Make Friends". https://childmind.org/article/kids-who-need-a-little-help-to-make-friends/. Childmind.org: Child Mind Institute.
Tuck, Shonna. "8 Ways to Help Young Kids Make Friends This Summer (And Keep Them When They Go Back to School)". https://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2017/06/23/how-to-help-young-kids-make-friends-this-summer/. 23 June 2017.