It amazes me how many 10 - 15 year olds and even up to 17 year olds, find it difficult to make friends. There seems to be an assumption that it happens naturally and that it is easy, so when they have problems they feel devastated and useless, thinking everyone else can do something they can't do. Yet, how do we learn this important skill? Like most skills we can deconstruct it and work out the strategy that will work for us. We can also watch others who seem to be successful at it. Also, we can remember when we could make friends and take on that belief now along with the process.
Extracting the strategy
Think about when you make a friend, how did it happen. Take yourself back to the last time you made a friend and work through what happened, step by step. The chances are that it went something like this:
1) caught someone's eye
3) went up to them
4) asked them a question
5) conversation started
6) found you had things in common
7) exchanged numbers
8) contacted and met up again.
If your child is struggling with making friends it can feel overwhelming so we need to 'chunk it down'. Ask them how many friends they want to make and even which specific friends. Get it down to bite size, where it is more manageable.
Then ask them about the process. Get them to break it down into steps. Remind them that when they first joined their school they made friends or when they started a new club or activity. Ask them what they did to make friends then and suggest how they might do something similar now.
Just having an idea of the first step can make a big difference. Suggest they make that first step with that particular friend right now.
Remember too that they learn from you. If you show a disinclination to make new friends and they don't see you making contact with new people they will subconsciously think it is a scary thing to do. Show them how easy it is to go up to someone new so they can see for themselves that it is OK.
Body language is very important and many young people have no idea what message they communicate through how they stand, walk and look at others. Encourage your child to think about what they communicate and practice a confident (but not aloof) walk and good eye contact.
Finally, bear in mind that not every overture will result in a friend. Be ready to accept that there will be successes and failures along the way and that if you feel good about yourself, others will be attracted to you so work on the self-confidence as well.
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