Tuesday, July 24, 2012

helping my child make friends

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You may have read my post last month titled On How to Make Friends.  I wrote about my struggle in how to help my 3.5 yr old son make friends.  It was hard for me to figure out how to help him due to my own social awkwardness. 

Bear is outgoing and proficient in conversations with adults.  I suppose this comes from living in a house full of "big people".  He doesn't get that much of an opportunity to interact with other kiddos.  So in group settings, he becomes extremely introverted and is left out of activities because of this.

I got an overwhelmingly caring response to my On How to Make Friends post from so many people.  It brought me to tears that so many people, both friends and strangers wanted to help me help my son.  So I followed some of their suggestions and came up with a few solutions of my own.  Here are the ones that seem to be working so far...

I stepped out of my comfort zone.
We all know how much our children pick up from us.  Once I was reminded of this, I had to force myself to do something that I was {and still am} uncomfortable with... relating to other moms.  How could I expect Bear to do it if I myself didn't?  So, during Vacation Bible School, I reached out to the other parents that were in Bear's class.  Here's how I did it...

I made playdate "business" cards.
I'll tell you several of the moms looked at me weird when I handed them these. I told them that our kids seemed to get along well and that we'd love to get together sometime. Of all of them, only 2 gave me their information as well. But I wasn't discouraged because I knew that putting myself {and Bear} out there like that was a big step.  Here's what they looked like:
 


I stopped using the words afraid and nervous.
Before going into a group situation like storytime or a playgroup, I stopped telling Bear "You don't have to be afraid or nervous.  I'll be right there."  I think that by previously using these phrases, I was telling him that there was something to be apprehensive about.  Instead, I started talking up the situation by saying things like, "I'm so excited about going to this storytime!  I wonder what new friends we'll meet?"

I joined a playgroup. 
If you aren't familiar with Meetup.com, and are interested in meeting more families in your area, check it out.  I heard about it at a park playdate from a mom that I knew through our church.  There are 3 playgroups in our area who do all types of fun things.  One of the groups is smaller and has more active members, so Bear will be able to be around the same children consistently.  Hopefully this will help him to forge some friendships.

So far, things are going better.  He's responding more to other children and gaining confidence.  It will take time, but I have full faith that things will even out.  I'm feeling better about the situation and I think that my lessened anxiety may have a small part in it as well. 

I'd love to know what types of things you do/have done to help your children make friends!
 

 
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15 comments:

Jenna said...

Thank you! Im an introverted person myself and find it hard to make friends, but for my kids its even harder! Thank you so much for showing me Im not the only one!

Joyce said...

You are inspiring to so many people! I know this post is really going to help a lot of people that feel a lot like you do. I'm proud of you! And I so wish we lived closer! By the way, I love your play date business cards! You gave us all some great tips. Thank you :)

Sheri said...

Great post Andie, and honestly, knowing how hard it can be to step out of your own comfort zone, I'm really proud of you! This is an awful example, but I think you'll get what I'm trying to say. lol! When I had Brutus (our dog) in doggy classes, I was very nervous that he was going to do something "wrong". Of course, he never did things "right" when we got back to class. We would practice and practice at home, and then get to class and totally flop. Apparently the instructor could read me pretty well. She came up to me privately and said "you know, they can sense your anxiety all the way from your hand to the very end of the leash". After that I tried to just relax and stop putting so much "performance" pressure on both of us, and things went surprisingly better. I'm guessing children are very much the same. By you changing your feeling and tone going in to social situations, Bear will follow. Awesome! :)

Ness @ One Perfect Day said...

These are great ideas Andie and I love the play date business cards. You are such a great role model for Bear by stepping out of your comfort zone as much as you have. This post will be helpful to so many people.

Trisha @ Inspiration Laboratories said...

Great tips, Andie! Since we just moved, I'm starting to look for play groups. I am heading to check out the site you recommended now.

Christy said...

How cute are those play date cards! Go you! I think what you are doing is great. I am the same as you, very awkward irl. It's crazy how much easier it is to be frienly when you have a computer to hide behind. lol

All-American Vegetarian said...

Good job, Mamma! As parents, we are constantly forced to go out of our own comfort zones - it comes the moment we find out we are pregnant, whether we realize it or not...and it will last a lifetime, with every phase and age our children encounter.
I love that you made playdate cards - fabulous idea! I also think it is great you joined a mother's group. I joined a mothers group (through Meetup, actually!) when my first-born was a few months old. I am proud to say I am still best friends with several of the mother's I met through that group - even though I am now 300 miles away from them and our "babies" are now approaching 6 years old. My point is that a mother's group is not only just for the children to socialize, but for parents as well.
Congratulations! You and Bear are definitely on your way!
~Rebecca @ All-American Vegetarian

happyhooligans said...

Andie, I LOVE those playdate cards!

Elizabeth Kenney said...

Oh wow...This is a BIG subject with us. We have four kids, 5,9,11&12. If I've learned anything, a good playdate is a combination of parents who like each other and kids who are the same. We live in NYC so parental effort is crucial or playdates don't happen. I've seen playdate cards but they tend to be more minimal - kid's name and info with a cute image. No mention of playdates - that does seem a little much but then people are pretty low-key here. Our kids are with us half the time and then split after a week and two go to my Ex's and two go to my husband's Ex's so arranging playdates can be very complicated and I've found that usually the burden is all on us because people are not sure which parent to contact. It makes it much easier if we initiate. When we moved a couple years ago, I noticed my son didn't want to have his friends round any more and he'd loved it previously. I finally asked him about it to learn he felt self conscious about how our house looked (we were under construction). I was so relieved! We talked through it and now he's ok about it. Our eldest had never had a playdate in two years. It's just one of his quirks we've decided. That, and hes in that 'cool' phase where having one of his friends over with three younger sibs is just not ok. The eleven yo prefers to have playdates at her mom's doorman apt with pool in the city rather than our house in Brooklyn so I focus more on stuff for my two younger ones. We're still working out how to have weekend parties with so many different ages and parent mixes that happen in our eclectic city. Hopefully soon!

Isabel Ceballos said...

Ohhhh is this post inspiring!! I love your playdate cards, and I would love to be one of those who received it! I have two children, and as well we struggle to find them places to meet new children because they are at home all the time, and we are new in the city. They are just starting preschool this year. It is hard, even though they are brothers and entertain each other, but socializing is very important. I chose to taken them to storytimes, and children activities from Pottery Barn (free and great), local libraries, etc. I applaud your initiative!

Kimberly Sminkey said...

as always, you seem to know just what to do! So proud of you for letting your own anxiety go... you are such a friendly person, if someone doesn't like you or Bear, they are not worth knowing!

Jaime JJ said...

my 3 1/2yr is shy a lot. He is in a preschool program and last yr was this 2nd yr there and they said toward the end of the yr he finally started to open up. I am hoping this year goes well for him. Love the things you talk about gives me somethings to work on with him and me:-) Thanks for sharing. Going to share for you- FSPDT, Jaime

Gina said...

Andie, thanks so much for writing this post! What a wonderful reminder to step out of your comfort zone...I am always so awkward and shy around other mothers and I don't want my son picking up on that. I also would never have thought about my choice of words. That is wonderful to remember in so many situations, like not saying to be scared at the doctor's office. Again, thanks for your wonderful post! :)

happynik said...

This is helpful for people with extroverted kids too. My son has a different kind of confidence, but all kids get their feelings hurt just the same. My son is very extroverted but still has a hard time making friends because he is often so over the top. He has a hard time matching other people's energy and every time we go out I wonder what is going to happen. After his little brother was born, I was scared to go out in public after a few hairy incidents. It's a ton of trial and error, but the more we do it, the better it gets. It has been very hard for me to step out of my comfort zone and also make new friends in the process. I had to learn when I was a part of the problem and have to be very careful about timing and watching for cues and time to go. I didn't take him out on a lot of playdates until he was about 2.5, so he gets along better with older people and older kids. It's been hard and watching him struggle can just about break my heart. He LOVES all people, and can't understand why they don't all love him back. It's hard to explain that people sometimes need space because he doesn't feel that way. I'm pretty extroverted too, but also kind of shy when I first meet anyone, so it's hard for me to always understand him. Thanks for sharing.

Amy said...

Great post, Andie. LC is the same way; totally comfortable around adults, but introverted and kind of timid around other kids. I really appreciate your suggestions!

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