How can I help my child make friends?

Helping Children Make Friends: What Parents Can Do

We all want our child to have friends. We want them to be happy and to build the social skills and connections that will help them now and in the future. Sometimes, and for some children, making friends isn’t easy. This is particularly true after the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of isolation and remote school, many children either didn’t learn the skills they need to make friends — or those skills got rusty.

Here are some ways parents can help:

Start at Home: Learning Relationship Skills

Making and keeping friends involves skills that are best learned at home with your family. Some of them include:



Ensure everyone in the family treats each other fairly and with kindness. Children pay attention to what we do, not just what we say.


Curiosity About Others: 

Make a family habit of asking each other about their day, interests, and thoughts.


Communication Skills: 

Devices can endanger the development of these skills. Turn off devices, have family dinners, and talk with each other.



Do projects, play games, and do chores as a family. Help your child learn about taking turns and valuing the input of others.


Regulating Emotions: 

Help your child find ways to understand and manage big emotions.


Knowing When and How to Apologize — and Forgive: 

Teach your child how to apologize for their mistakes, make amends, and forgive the mistakes of others.


Encourage Play and Interaction at Home

Play is a critical part of developing social skills. Encourage both structured and unstructured play at home. Structured play can include board games or building projects that require teamwork, while unstructured play allows children to use their imagination and creativity to solve problems and interact with others.


Be a Good Role Model Outside the Home, Too

When you are outside your home, be friendly! Strike up conversations and ask questions of people around you. Help your child learn confidence and strategies for talking to people they don’t know.


Facilitate Social Opportunities

Conversations and interactions can be easier if they are organized around a common interest or activity. Here are some ways parents can help:


Sign Your Child Up for Activities: 

Choose activities that involve their peers and interest them.


Get to Know the Parents of Your Child’s Peers: 

Invite them to an outing or meal.


Plan Playdates: 

Think about fun, cooperative activities like baking cookies, or going to a park or museum.


Host Social Gatherings: 

Invite classmates or neighborhood children for a movie night, game night, or other fun activities at your home.


Keep an Eye on Your Child — But Don’t Hover

Ultimately, your child needs to learn to do this themselves, and you don’t want to embarrass them. The two exceptions might be:


If the Children Aren’t Interacting at All: 

Suggest some activities and facilitate as necessary.


If There Is Fighting or Meanness: 

Step in and make it clear that such behavior isn’t okay.


Encourage Extracurricular Activities

Engage your child in extracurricular activities that they enjoy, such as sports, music, arts, or clubs. These environments provide natural settings for making friends with shared interests and goals.


Teach Conflict Resolution Skills

Children need to learn how to handle conflicts in a healthy manner. Teach them how to express their feelings, listen to others, and find mutually acceptable solutions. Role-playing conflict scenarios can be a useful tool.


Encourage Group Activities and Teamwork

Activities that require teamwork, such as group projects, sports, and cooperative games, can help children learn how to work with others and build friendships.


Keep an Open Line of Communication, and Be Supportive

Talk with your child regularly about their day, interactions, and feelings. Listen more than you talk, and be positive and supportive. Understand your child’s personality and see the world from their perspective.


Teach Social Etiquette

Teaching your child basic social etiquette, such as saying “please” and “thank you,” taking turns, and not interrupting, can help them interact more positively with others.


Encourage Self-Expression

Encourage your child to express themselves through art, music, writing, or other creative outlets. Self-expression can help build confidence and attract like-minded friends.


Utilize Books and Media

Read books or watch shows together that emphasize friendship and social skills. Discuss the characters’ interactions and what your child can learn from them.


Assessing and Supporting Your Child’s Social Skills

Kids seem to have busier schedules than ever before, as we shuffle them off from one activity or sports practice to another. Some can jump right into social situations, while others struggle. Here are additional ways to support your child:


Take Time to Observe and Understand How Your Child Socializes

Start with a “fly on the wall” approach. Attend a few activities at school or sports and pay close attention to how your child interacts with others. Do they behave differently than at home?


Model Positive Social Behavior

Children learn by example, so be mindful of how you interact with others. Every interaction becomes a learning opportunity.


Role Play at Home

If your child finds it difficult to start conversations, practice at home. Discuss topics of interest and test different options until something comes naturally.


Give Your Child a Head Start

If your child wants to play baseball, visit the field and practice before joining the team. For swimming lessons, consider private lessons first.


Reinforce and Praise

Make practicing new things exciting and rewarding. Acknowledge each small success and encourage persistence.


Get the Ball Rolling

For smaller children, setting up a play date with one other child can be beneficial. For older children, consider inviting a group over for an activity.


Don’t Avoid the Problem

Gradually push a shy child slightly beyond their comfort zone into new situations, with gentle coaching and encouragement.


Don’t Compare Your Child to Yourself or Other Siblings

Be realistic about your child’s unique personality and temperament. Some children prefer a few close friends over many casual acquaintances. As long as they’re happy and well-adjusted, that’s what matters.

By incorporating these strategies, parents can provide a supportive environment that helps children develop the social skills necessary to build meaningful friendships. Every child is different, and patience, encouragement, and understanding are key to helping them navigate their social world.