Your child comes home from school at the end of each day, quiet and seemingly upset. He appears to be lonely, and you are saddened by this. Your heart breaks because all you want for your child is for him to be happy. It’s a pickle, because on the one hand, your child doesn’t seem to want to play with others. He watches people, but when he is approached, he shies away. On the other hand, even though he seems to not want friends, he is feeling lonely and becoming increasingly moody.
One of the problems most parents face is that you cannot make friends for your child. You cannot force any of the other children to like your child, and you can’t be on the playground with him.
Friendship in the foundation years is vitally important for a child’s development. The way your son or daughter gets along with people plays a huge role in future development. The playground is the place where the majority of learning occurs, for example spatial (learning distance and depth perception) cognitive (skills learned during games and play groups) and the socialisation skills where they learn basic social rules as well as how to interact with people.
It is also the place where they learn empathy, problem-solving skills and negotiation skills.
The truth is, not having friends on the playground can seriously affect children, and often results in attention seeking behavior, tattle-tailing on their peers to seek favour with adults, and some even resorting to giving gifts to their peers right out of mommy’s cupboard. It also strongly affects your child’s self-esteem and sense of self.
As adults, we remember how unkind the playground can be. The first solution is to remember that your child’s first friend in life is you. Play with him, make sure he knows how important this is, and learn to laugh with your child. Secondly, work on your child’s confidence. Encourage free speech but teach them about limitations. The most popular children on the playground are often the most confident and outspoken. You can also improve your child’s social skills but hosting a party at your house. Bring other children into your child’s territory so that they can feel comfortable in his space. This will increase your child’s ability to be comfortable in other children’s spaces. Most importantly, make sure your child knows that he is a person who people will want to spend time with. Encourage your child in a way that their self-esteem piques, and encourage non-competitive activity (not piggy in the middle, as this can foster feelings of being ganged up on or left out).