Making Friends

“You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” (MILNE)

I love this quote from Winnie-the-Pooh, it’s a gentle reminder that we have to put ourselves out there sometimes and make an effort with friends, we can’t just sit back and wait for others to come to us… but what if your child is shy & struggles to make friends?

Some children are little social butterflies, flitting from one person to another with ease, but for many taking the first steps towards new friendships can be scary! It is natural for children to feel shy sometimes - when they meet someone new or have to speak in front of others in class - but if they can't overcome that initial shyness they may struggle to make friends and risk being isolated and feeling lonely.

Daisy image

When children are little it’s easier for us to intervene and help; there’s often a grown up by their side helping them to ease in to play dates and paving the way for friendships to form. But there comes a point as a parent when you can't hold on to your child’s hand and choose who they socialise with, you can't be there with them in the school playground and you can't make friends for them.

So here are a few tips and ideas to share with your children to help them feel less shy and make friends more easily. (CHILDLINE)

  • Remind them to smile, it really does makes people smile back
  • Suggest that if another child is friendly to them, they should try to be friendly back – the other child might feel just as scared and shy
  • Encourage them to share something – this can be a great ice-breaker, whether it's an idea, a toy, a treat or a game at break time
  • Remind your child that it can take time to make friends, so don't give up if it's tough for the first few days

Every child is unique, so let’s not forget there’s a difference between children who are shy and children who are simply more introverted and prefer spending time reading or drawing by themselves. While it’s important that more introverted children still get opportunities to make friends, it can be enough for some kids to find just one social activity they like and do it once a week. (BUSMAN)

And remember it's quality not quantity that matters most when to comes to friendships, and as parents and carers we must be careful not to place too many of our own social expectations on children. They only need to have one or two good friends in their lives, you don’t have to worry about them being the most popular child in their class. (ROONEY) Shyness can have positive knock-on effects too – shy children tend to do well at school, they listen more attentively to others and are less likely to get into trouble – that can't be bad! (BETTER HEALTH)

Don’t forget that feeling shy is normal. At least I hope so - I personally have many memories of feeling shy and self conscious when I was growing up, looking on in awe at those who just instinctively knew what to say and were a natural in the spotlight . I still feel that way now sometimes but, just like Pooh Bear, I know it’s important to make an effort with friends and come out of my corner of the Forest from time to time!