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Dear Teacher

May 31, 2010
12:00 AM

Helping Children Make Friends

Two veteran teachers weigh in on why some kids struggle and how to help them, from teaching the basics to opening up opportunities so they can make – and keep – pals

Helping Children Make Friends

Parent's question

I feel so sorry for my 9-year-old son. He never seems to have any friends. He may have a friend for a few days, but his friendships never seem to last very long. He usually plays alone. Is there some way I can help him make and keep friends?

Our answer

Most children seem to make friends fairly easily. When they don't, it might be because other children don't like their behavior. They might be too bossy, disruptive or unwilling to share. Or they might always want to have their own way. Some children have problems because they are shy. For a few, the problem might be caused by a learning disability.

According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, parents can teach and reinforce basic friendship rules. Reinforce with your son how everyone likes to get a compliment. Teach him how to give compliments. Make sure he realizes the importance of sharing. When he plays with other children, watch what is happening to see if he needs some friendship tips from you.

Parents should also make sure that their children have many opportunities to make friends. Get your son involved in activities this summer with children who have similar interests, from sports to music to stamp collecting. Share family outings with friends who have children his age.

If your son continues to have problems making and keeping friends, you might wish to talk to a counselor for more help. And do remember, some children are happy with only one or two friends.

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