As a parent, one of the hardest things to hear your child say is that they feel like they don’t have any friends. Unfortunately, many of us will hear that exact statement come out of our child’s mouth at some point in time.
So…… after you get over your initial flood of emotions, what do you do next? A lot will depend on the age of your child, but following are a few things to think about.
- How is your child defining a friend?
- Ask your child what they themselves do to be a friend to others.
- Start a discussion about how people make friends. Who makes the first connection?
- Think about if your child has opportunities to make friends. Are they in school? Are they part of a playgroup? Do you take them to parks/pools/gymnastics centers or other places where friendships can happen?
- If they ARE in school, does the child’s teacher feel it’s an accurate statement?
- How often does your child make statements about having no friends?
- Does it feel like your child is seeking attention or looking for sympathy?
- Could your child be over-tired and more sensitive to feeling slighted?
- Sit down and make a list together of everyone who IS their friend. Sometimes a concrete visual like a list is necessary. The child who says they have no friends may be like the person who says they “have nothing to wear” when their closet is full.
- Remind your child that even if they have had a falling out with someone, that doesn’t mean the friendship has ended. Share ideas about how to mend a friendship.
- Do you see changes in your child such as a pattern of trouble sleeping, loss of appetite etc. that may indicate real distress?
- Make a plan with your child. Instead of waiting passively for someone to befriend them, help them take steps to initiate a friendship.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” When it’s all said and done, that’s a great message to share with our children.