As parents, we all want our children to have positive and fulfilling friendships. It can be heartbreaking if your child doesn’t have a best friend or special friend to share life with.
Strong friendships are important for a child’s emotional and social development, and can provide a sense of support and connection as they navigate the ups and downs of growing up.
However, making and maintaining friendships can be challenging for some children, especially in today’s fast-paced and digitally-driven world.
That’s why I’ve created a Friendship Workbook for Kids, which includes activities to get your child to think about the different components of friendship. It will give your child a great start to build their social confidence.
How to Help Your Child Make Friends
The free workbook is perfect for a child struggling to make friends, struggling to hold on to friendships, or those who seem to choose unhealthy friendships.
You’ll find questions and activities to help them reflect and improve on their qualities as a friend.
In the rest of the article I’ll talk you through some of the topics that I cover in the friendships workbook, plus some important extras!
Download Your Free Kids Friendship Workbook Here
Kids and Friendship: Start With Self-Reflection
What makes a good friendship?
It’s important that your child thinks about the importance of friendship both in terms of what they can offer and what friends can offer to them. It’s one of the most important life skills and a necessary skill for healthy friendships.
Even young children can reflect on the characteristics of a good friend.
The Friendship Workbook begins with a section on self-reflection, which encourages children to think about their own strengths and interests. This is an important step in developing strong friendships, as it helps children to feel confident and comfortable with who they are, and to find others who share their interests and values.
Encourage your child to take the time to complete this section thoughtfully, and to share their reflections with you if they feel comfortable.
Your Child’s Strengths, Values and Their Friendships
You also want to help your child to put their strengths and values into action.
For example, if they feel they are a kind person, what acts of kindness could they perform this week? What kind words could they offer to other children?
Qualities of a Good Friend
Next, encourage your child to think about the qualities of a good friend.
How can they do more of this themselves?
For example, if they feel that their friends are good listeners, how can they practise being a good listener themselves?
How to Make a New Friend
Does your child feel that they can’t make friends? Here are some pointers for you to work with your child on making a new friend.
Make sure you focus on just one area at a time, otherwise it could feel overwhelming to your child.
- Initiate Conversation: Teach your child to start with a friendly greeting. Encourage them to ask open-ended questions to find common interests.
- Be a Good Listener: Guide your child to listen actively when others speak. It shows they value the other person’s thoughts and feelings.
- Share and Take Turns: Help your child understand the importance of sharing and turn-taking. It’s a key part of playing and interacting with peers.
- Show Kindness: Encourage your child to be kind and considerate. Small gestures like sharing a snack can go a long way.
- Join Group Activities: Support your child in joining clubs or groups. Shared activities are great icebreakers and provide opportunities for interaction.
- Practice Social Skills: Role-play different social scenarios at home. It can boost your child’s confidence in real-life situations.
- Be Patient: Remind your child that making friends takes time. They should not feel disheartened by setbacks.
- Stay Positive: Help your child to stay positive and be themselves. Authenticity attracts genuine friendships.
Practice Good Communication Skills
Strong social skills involve many elements. One important group of skills can be summarised as effective communication.
Communication is key to making new friends and maintaining healthy relationships.
Here are some examples of communication skills which are an important part of everyday life:
- Active listening
- Nonverbal communication
- Being respectful
- Being positive
- Giving and taking feedback
- Making small talk
- Compromise and negotiation
- Expressing feelings and thoughts clearly
- Assertiveness and standing up for oneself
- Resolving conflicts peacefully
- Showing interest in others’ lives and opinions
- Asking questions and showing curiosity
- Using humor appropriately
- Sharing and being generous.
The workbook includes a section on communication skills. It provides practical tips for children to communicate clearly, listen actively, and express themselves respectfully.
Encourage your child to practice these skills in their everyday interactions with friends, and to reflect on how they can improve their communication with others.
Children and Friendships: Learning How to “Read” Others
It’s so difficult for some children to understand that different people may say the same thing, but have a completely different meaning.
Learning to “read” others involves not just listening to what they are saying, but interpreting their tone of voice, facial expressions and body language too. This gives children vital insights into what the other person means, and how they are thinking and feeling.
Being a “social spy” means observing social situations and interactions to gain a better understanding of what people are thinking or feeling, or what they mean. This is a great way of helping children with their friendships by teaching them how to read social cues, understand nonverbal communication, and navigate social situations more effectively.
Through becoming a social spy, children can learn to recognize important situations like when someone is feeling left out, when to approach a group, or when to give someone space.
These skills can help them build stronger, more meaningful relationships and become more empathetic and socially aware individuals.
There are many different ways to practise being a social spy. Here are some examples:
- Observe other children’s body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.
- Practice interpreting and responding to different social cues.
- Role-play social scenarios with friends or family members.
- Participate in group activities and observe how others interact.
- Watch TV shows or movies and discuss the characters’ social interactions.
- Play games that require cooperation and communication.
- Practice active listening by asking questions and showing interest in what others have to say.
- Attend social skills groups or workshops.
- Seek feedback from trusted friends or adults.
- Practice putting themselves in others’ shoes and imagining how they might feel in a given situation.
- Use online resources or apps designed to teach social skills.
- Keep a journal or log of social interactions and reflect on what went well and what could be improved.
Children and Making Friends: Focus on 1-1 and Small Groups
Children who struggle to make friends may find it easier to start by working on 1-1 friendships and small groups rather than larger groups because these settings provide a more intimate and less overwhelming environment.
Larger groups can be heavily influenced by peer pressure.
In one-on-one settings, children can focus on building a connection with just one other person, which can be less intimidating and less pressure-filled than trying to navigate a larger social group. It can be easier to “read” one single person at a time rather than several.
Small groups can provide a sense of safety and familiarity, which can help children feel more comfortable and less anxious about social interactions.
As they gain more confidence and social skills, your child may then gradually work their way up to larger group interactions. Over time they will feel more equipped to handle the complexities of social dynamics.
Friendship Activities For Kids: Try New Activities and Meet New People
One of the best ways to widen your child’s circle of friends is to encourage them to try new activities where they will meet new people.
The friendship workbook for kids includes several fun activities and games that your child can do alone or with others, such as making friendship bracelets or writing a letter to a new friend.
Encourage your child to try these activities, and to be open to new experiences and people.
Childhood Friendship Difficulties: Structure is Best
When you are thinking about new activities to try, consider how structured they will be.
For example, if your child struggles with initiating interactions and unstructured environments, it’s best to start with a group activity they can try alongside others without having to interact all the time.
For example, martial arts is a great activity where your child is in a social setting but is mostly following instructions and not required to interact freely. Dance is also a fun way for children to meet new people without too much pressure to interact.
Social activities involving cooperative games or activities small groups supported by adults are also a good way to build strong relationships between a group of children. For example, scouts and girl guides (or cubs, beavers, brownies and rainbows for younger children) offer many supported group activities.
Childhood Friendships: Learning How to Handle Challenges and Conflicts
Friendship is not always smooth sailing, and children will inevitably encounter challenges and conflicts with their friends.
Conflict resolution involves a whole set of skills which children will learn over time. For example, listening to the other person’s perspective, suggesting a compromise, managing their emotions whilst the conflict is happening.
Conflicts are inevitable, especially if you have a strong-willed or spirited child. Look at them as an excellent opportunity to learn about managing other people.
You can reflect on what happened with your child. Talk, role play or use social stories or comic strip conversations. Then, look at tweaks your child can make in future, to get a successful and happy outcome.
The friendships workbook for kids includes a helpful section about conflict.
Friendship Activities for Kids: Have Fun!
Finally, it’s important to remember that friendships should be fun and enjoyable!
Work through the Friendship Workbook for Kids with your child as a way to help your child have fun with other children, try new things, and learn more about themselves and others.
The Friendship Workbook for Kids is designed to generate self-reflection and build strong foundational communication skills. With this strong foundation, your child can develop strong and positive friendships that will support them throughout their lives.
The workbook contains a list of friendship activities your child can try. Help them to pick a friendship activity and get started.
So, encourage your child to use the worksheet, have fun with their friends, and enjoy the journey of building and maintaining great friendships!
Dr Lucy Russell is a UK clinical psychologist who works with children and families. Her work involves both therapeutic support and autism assessments. She is the Clinical Director of Everlief Child Psychology, and also worked in the National Health Service for many years. In 2019 Lucy launched They Are The Future, a support website for parents of school-aged children.
Through TATF Lucy is passionate about giving practical, manageable strategies to parents and children who may otherwise struggle to find the support they need.
Lucy is a mum to two teenage children. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, children, rescue dog and three rescue cats. She enjoys caravanning and outdoor living, singing and musical theatre.
Join They Are The Future’s free Facebook group for regular tips and great ideas to support teens and pre-teens with their mental health! Join the group: Parent Tips for Positive Child Mental Health UK.