Do you remember when you were in grade school? Were you ever new to a school? What about new to a job? Can you remember the feelings you had as you dwelled in the question: will people like me?
It is human nature to desire being in community and when we struggle to build that community, we suffer emotionally. Feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, fear, and sadness may come up. What do you do when you feel inadequate? How do act when you are anxious?
Now think about the children in your life. Perhaps they feel the same way you do when they are faced with meeting new people. Or perhaps they feel differently. When you talk to children about making friends, remember times when you had to meet new people. Doing this will allow you to more easily empathize with their situation. Then, encourage them to do the following:
- Name their feeling- Naming our feelings allows us to respond, rather than react, to a given situation. Be sure to validate their feelings.
- Share their story- Sharing what happened can let you as the adult figure out why your child is having difficulty making friends
- Make a plan- help your child figure out what they can do to be more successful in making friends. Ask your child what good friends do. Using kind words, taking turns, sharing, and inviting others to play are a few ideas that children have shared with me over the years.
Children grow and develop at different rates. They will look to you to guide them throughout their development, so be patient and give grace.