Learning to make friends is one of the most significant tasks in a childís early social development. A child usually begins this process during the second year of life playing alongside another toddler. Although there is not much interaction, children notice that they are not much different from others and they are not the center of the universe.
They negotiate roles, and they learn to compromise. Somehow they manage rejection, claim their possessions, and learn ways to settle conflicts. Friends do things to reinforce each otherís acceptable behavior and even model behavior for one another.
What can parents do to guide the social development of their young children?
One important thing is to help a child learn how to approach other children, how to make contact. Your child will be watching how you do it. How you manage social situations affects the way your child views social interaction. Encourage your child to smile and make eye contact with others.
Provide times when your child can interact with peers in a safe and appropriate environment. If you think heís having a difficult time making friends, try to arrange special play activities with slightly older children. They will provide examples of effective social skills.
As your child gets a little older and is entertaining a friend at home, try to stay out of the way so they can negotiate conflict and manage the give and take of friendship. Step in only when there is imminent danger or a squabble has gone out of control.
Sometimes social skills take a lifetime to perfect. We all know adults who are not experts at social interaction. Instead of referring to your child as "shy", you can say he is "cautious in new situations." This describes the behavior in a positive way, which is better for the child.