Making Friends Interpersonal Skills - Brainbow Kids

Making Friends Interpersonal Skills

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What is the most important skill a person can have? There are thousands of courses, millions of books and articles, and countless tips and suggestions to improve our lives by cultivating a certain skill or set of skills.

But which one is most important? There may not be a definitive answer to that question, but I think one of the most common answers would be: communication (or interpersonal) skills.

It is simply a fact of life that we will encounter thousands, even tens of thousands, of people in our lifetime. While we don’t need to make a good impression on everyone we meet (which would be an impossible task anyway), we must at least get along with others well enough to get by.

When my daughter lost her intrinsic motivation to attend school, she counted down to the weekend every day. I knew this was a message that she was sending me. Remember, every behavior is a message. Upon discussing with her teacher, I gave her an emotion log. Every day, Vaishnavi and her teacher will write down things that made her feel happy, sad, or worried. The records helped her process her feelings, and we relooked into her spending time with friends.

To think of it, most of us look forward to going to work if we have good colleagues. Love and Belonging are the third layers of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, after safety and physiological needs. Making friends, learning to communicate, and listening is an important part of life skills we all must learn, and our children are still learning.

This October – December, we are moving to the 4th Quadrant of the Emotional Intelligence Framework; Relationship Management. Here students will learn adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others.

For most children, friendships are an important part of childhood. Although not every child has a strong desire to connect with others and have friends, many do. However, some anxious children find it hard to interact with peers and to be in social situations. Often, they desperately want to be accepted by peers but their anxiety holds them back. Using some of the strategies below, you can start to help your child achieve his/her social goals and make friends.

First, give your child a chance to talk so you can understand better what may be at the heart of his/her struggle with making and/or keeping friends. Some children feel left out and rejected by peers, while others worry about making mistakes or getting teased. Maintain a curious, supportive and caring attitude, and take care not to blame your child. If your child is not ready to talk yet, be patient. Knowing you are available to talk about friendships will allow your child to come to you when s/he is ready. To find out more, you may need to ask concrete questions, such as:

  1. Who did you play with during field time today?
  2. Were you at the reading corner today as well with Hamzah?
  3. I notice lots of glitter on your hair, was that in art? Was it with a friend?

Remember to ask them after your child has had their quiet/downtime after school.

Next, look for any behaviors in your child that may be a turn-off to other children. For example, does your child avoid eye contact with other people? Does your child speak so softly that others can’t hear? Is your child reluctant to share or has trouble taking turns? These are examples of missing social skills. The good news is that these skills can be learned. You can begin at home, teaching your child these important skills through play. It is important to begin with 1 or 2 specific social skills, so as not to overwhelm or confuse your child.

I personally love role play. Be patient and have fun learning together. Even if your child has good social skills, practicing using them can build confidence and reduce anxiety, allowing them to make friends successfully. Once your child is comfortable using the characters to act out common situations, you can then graduate to doing it “live.” For example, you take the part of another child and your child practices the new skill on you. You can even practice out in the community at a local park or library. Finally, using praise can increase confidence.

Finally, ask your child to create a friendship goal to help increase his/her chances of making new friends. Depending on how socially anxious your child is, you may need to start with very small friendship goals. It is important to work on 1 goal at a time, and that you wait until 1 goal is reached before moving on to the next. Some friendship goals might include:

  • Asking a friend over for a play date
  • Asking to borrow something
  • Asking to join in (e.g. a game)

Encourage your child to create a “success” chart to track his/her progress. Do not use it as a Reward chart but treat it as a progress chart. In this case, stickers can be used.

Nandhini Sivanna

Nandhini Sivanna

Nandhini Sivanna is an ISEI certified coach. She is the founder of Brainbow Kids. Brainbow Kids builds resilient children through EQ practices via art craft and storytelling.

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Making Friends Interpersonal Skills

What is the most important skill a person can have? There are thousands of courses, millions of books and articles, and countless tips and suggestions