How to Build and Maintain Friendships

Question

Hello, how do I help my 7-year-old daughter maintain good friendships? She is homeschooled, so our main source of friends is in church or our homeschool co-op. She is pretty outgoing, but I’ve noticed lately that she is often excluded or ignored by some girls who are a little bit older or around the same age as her. If she sees a group of girls she has a hard time joining in sometimes. How do I encourage her in this?

Answer

Building and maintaining friendships is a skill that requires practice and time. Perhaps you can invite one or two of your daughter's friends over to your house to play and observe the interactions. Afterward, coach your daughter. Is she acting in ways that are impulsive or antagonize others? Is she generous with her toys? Does she take their opinions into consideration?

She may need to be taught HOW to be a good friend. Kids aren't usually naturally good at sharing, taking turns, holding conversation, and forgiving the mistakes of others. Teach her how to be a good hostess, to be polite and warm, to allow her friends to choose what to do or to play, yet also offer suggestions if there is a lull.

It may be your observation that your daughter is excluded or ignored, but does it bother her? Does she notice or complain about it? Sometimes what looks like exclusion is simply awkwardness of young kids not quite knowing what to do. Help your daughter think of a few phrases she can say to join into an already established circle. Practice at home, then she can try it out at your next gathering. Maybe something like, "Hi, everyone! What are you talking about?" Or, "Do you guys want to play Hide-N-Seek?"

Unfortunately, not everyone is going to like your daughter - some kids just don't "click" and that's ok. Good friendship matches may take some trial and error. You can model healthy female friendships for her as well. :)

Jen Carbulon, "The No-Yelling Coach"
jencarbulon.com

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