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The Lonely Child


Some kids instinctively know how to make friends, but many don’t. Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me author Michele Borba says the reason many kids are having a friendship crisis is because times have changed. Parents are more anxious and fearful than the last generation. As a result, kids are over-controlled and overly busy with lessons and organized activities, leaving no time for play. Doors are locked. The neighbourhood is gone. The parks are empty. As Borba says, “Every hour of our day seems to be tightly crammed and overscheduled. Who has even a minute for friends?”

    Today’s society is a lonelier place where face-to-face interaction is frequently replaced by text messaging and e-mail. Kids often spend more time with their video games, DVD players, computers and TV than with other kids.

Behavioural problems or learning disabilities also make it difficult for some kids to connect socially. Still others may simply be shy or seem out-of-step. Children who appear different may be targeted for teasing or ostracized on the playground. Often, kids don’t know how to respond or change their unhappy status.

    Parents can do a little life-coaching because many social skills can be learned. You cant make friends for your child but you can show your child how to be a friend. Some suggestions are:

  • Create lots of opportunities for your child to play and socialize with others.
  • Relax your child’s schedule so there’s time for play and socializing.
  • Make sure your child is available to play at a friends house or go on outings with others. If your child is consistently unavailable, his classmates may get used to leaving him out.
  • Allow your child to invite other children to play in your home. A child who seldom reciprocates invitations isn’t likely to be asked back.

Be Aware Of Your Child’s Behaviour With Others
Manners still matter, despite the rudeness kids may see in popular reality shows or in the media. Kids who won’t share or kids who are bossy won’t make a lot of friends, either. Help your child develop empathy by becoming aware of the feelings of his playmates. If your child tends to be dominant or aggressive, you may need to intervene to help problem-solve during a dispute. Talk to your child afterwards about ways to manage feelings. By school age, children should be showing some self-control when playing with others.

Listening Is A Life Skill
Help your child to become a good listener. A seven-year-old is capable of understanding how others are feeling. Children need to know how to listen
just as much as adults do to have successful relationships.

Be A Friend
Show how to be a friend by valuing your own friendships, helping others in your community and treating others with respect. Make guests welcome in your home and include your children when you’re entertaining as much as possible. Encourage your child to be kind, perhaps by helping shovel the walk for an elderly neighbour or helping you at home on a busy day. Let your child know how much the effort is appreciated.

Tune Into Your Child’s Interests
Don’t expect your daughter to love Brownies just because you did, or your son to bond with his soccer mates if team sports aren’t his thing. Your child may prefer activities such as karate, swimming or tennis which emphasize individual effort but still have a social aspect.

Tune Into Your Child’s Personality
Don’t pressure children into feeling they’ll disappoint you if not voted class president. Not all children are social butterflies. If your child is content with one or two close friendships, accept it.

Accept That Some Individuals Prefer Solitude
Some children enjoy their own company without feeling lonely. Help solitary children to develop satisfying hobbies that reflect their interests or individual creativity. These hobbies may provide the basis for a shared interest with others.

Don’t Deliberately Make Your Child ‘Different’
Most kids don’t want to look or feel different during the school years. It’s important to your child to fit in. While you may want your child to stand out in a crowd, that’s the last thing most kids want. Many adults have agonizing stories about being snubbed by wearing the wrong clothes to school or having the wrong haircut. Remember how you felt at your childs age. That doesn’t mean becoming a slave to kids designer fashions, but if the other kids are in tee shirts and jeans, don’t send your child to school in gray flannels or mini Dolce & Gabbana. Buy kids’ clothes to fit, with room for about one years growth. The child in the oversized dress or coat, bought to last for too many seasons, can become a target for teasing. (That’s different from skater or hip-hop teen trends where oversized clothing is suddenly cool). PC

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