How Strong Are Your Child's Friendship Making Skills?

by Michele Borba

sad little girlLet's face it, friends do matter. Research says those friends play an enormous part of our children's self-esteem as well as happiness quotient. But research also says friends impact our children's resilience, school success as well as just plain ability to get along in life. If your child has problems making friends, you can work together and increase friendship making skills.

Assess Your Child's Interpersonal Skills

The first step in boosting to your child's friendship quotient is to assess what his interpersonal strengths and weaknesses are right now. The more you understand how your child gets along with others and can identify the social skills he lacks, the better you'll be to help your child become socially competent. So the next time your child is around other kids, watch a little closer. Here are a few hints:

Be honest. Take a good look at your kid's friendship making skills and how he relates to others.

Observe your kid interact with his peers without him being aware you're watching. Bring a newspaper or book to pretend reading while you really watch to see how your child interacts.

Watch him in different social settings. For instance: on the playground, in a backyard, in an athletic event, in school, with one child then with a group of kids, with younger kids and with older kids.

Also watch kids who your child would say are well-liked. Tune into their friendship-making skills. What do they do that helps them be popular? And what are they doing that your child is not doing?

Talk to other parents about what skills they think are important in helping kids make and keep friends. Also talk to others who know and care about your child. What is their take on the situation?

Take notes, write down your findings and then take this test.

The Friendship Building Skills Test

Heres a list of behaviors often displayed by children needing a boost in friendship building skills. Check off the one box for each friendship issue that best describes your child's behavior. You might compare your notes with others who know your child well.

At the end of the test, give 2 points for always; 1 for sometimes and 0 for never. If your child scores, 75 to 100 he has serious friendship building issues and immediate intervention is required. A score of 50 to 75 shows definite problems to work on. A score of under 50 is still cause for concern, but don't call the fire department yet.

Remember if you checked "always” for some of the more serious and dangerous issues (such as "acts like a bully," "acts dangerously," "too aggressive," "mean and cruel") immediate steps need to be taken.

Whatever your child's score is, doing this test will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of his friendship building skills. Remember, there’s always room for improvement. This isn't about making sure your child gets a perfect score (come on, no child will). This is about determining what you can do to boost your child's social competence both now and for the rest of her life.

A    S    N     A=Always, S=Sometimes, N=Never

o    o    o    Doesn't share or take turns

o    o    o    Acts like a poor loser

o    o    o    Rarely cooperates; works alone

o    o    o    Shows little empathy for others' feelings

o    o    o    Lacks the skills to play games

o    o    o    Is too competitive

o    o    o    Can't read social cues

o    o    o    Acts too immaturely for the group