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Growing up social: how to help a 6-year old make friends

As our children get older, having and making friends becomes so important for their sense of self.  Having and making friends, however, can be quite emotional and difficult.  I myself can recall the difficulties of friendships, even from a very young age.  An urbanMama and worried mom emails:

Our 6 year old son is having problems getting along with other kids. He is an only child and we know that plays into it, but is it more than that?  He loves kids and the notion of having friends, but when it comes down to it he really does not play well with other kids.  He is often self-centered, competitive and adversarial in his interactions.  He has yet to develop a true pal either at school or in the neighborhood.  We set up play dates outside of school as often as we can so that he has more opportunities to socialize with other kids one on one, but often they do not go that well. 

Socialization is messy for almost all kids at his age, but we want to do as much as we can to help him get through his challenges so that he can experience more success socially when he enters first grade next year.  I think this has also been challenging for us as parents because we feel a bit isolated socially from other parents.  He does not get invited to many of the birthday parties or for play dates at other kids houses and that extended community is something that we are missing as well. 

We would love to hear from other parents who have struggled with similar issues and find out what has worked for you.  We would also like to consult with a child psychologist or counselor to obtain better tools as parents to help him develop these social skills.  Maybe even some form counseling for him.  If you have had experience with a child psychologist or counselor that you particularly liked, we would love to hear what you liked about them and to have their contact information. 


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I don't have a lot of experience in this department but I used to teach Kindergarten. If your son in in a Kindergarten class, I suggest talking to his teachers. Teachers have a lot of insight and can be really helpful putting together a program (whether it be a list of rules to work on at home or more...)that can help a child learn better ways to interact with his peers. It also seems like parent-involved play dates might be helpful. Working together to build a pinata or bake cookies, for instance. Activities where one or more parent can help the child learn how to get along with others. And clear consequences for unkind behavior. As I said, I'm no expert, but those are my thoughts. Best of luck!

We have an almost identical situation with our 5-year old son. I found myself nodding my head in agreement while reading what you wrote. Since our son will be starting kindergarten in the fall we are very focused on helping him improve his social/friendship-making skills in preparation. Therapy Solutions for kids on SW Macadam facilitates small social thinking groups for kids during the summer and we've enrolled our son for two of the two-week sessions. The groups "focus on developing social and cognitive thinking skills to foster increased communication and friendships with peers, family members, neighbors and others in the community."
Therapy Solutions is a wonderful practice and the cost is very reasonable. Our son currently receives OT there, but the groups may be open to those who are not currently clients. The contact is Stephanie Gorman (503.224.1998).
Good luck!

I have a six-year-old boy as well (who happens to have two younger sibs). He has always struggled socially, but as he nears the age of seven, he is doing better. It helped him when we gave him words to say and practiced them before getting into a social situation. (Introductions, sharing, goodbyes, etc.)

I have the same situation, but my son is only 3. On a couple of occasions, he has run into children at the park who have a similar energy and they get along great! I decided that the next time we run into a compatible child that I will approach the parent about possible play dates. Maybe they will find that odd, or maybe they will be just like me and looking for a compatible child. I won't know if I never ask!

My son is not as extreme, but he is very introverted and was kinda bossy when he was younger. Lots of playdates then helped, as well as 3 years of preschool for practice. As he reached six, I found reading books and talking about them very helpful. There are many children books about friendships and polite behavior. The Bearenstein Bears are great, a similar one called "please and thanks yous" which covers many social behaviors, as are the Arthur books. Because my child is very sensitive, talking about the other characters was a great way to discuss it without hurting his feelings (plus he could intellectualize the point into a 'rule').

We had the same problem when my oldest son started school and it broke my heart I tried the play dates i even volenteered at his school finally a friend told me that karate helped teach her son self confidence so we tried and it helped plus i learned along the way that not always fitting in is not always a bad thing my son still plays alone part of the time and is happy to do so.

We have a similar scenario with our 6yod. She is an only child & loves playing with other children; however, she often tries to dominate group activities & sometimes misses the social cues often tied to more personable interactions. I came across this post researching google for the same subject matter & was wondering if any of you have updates on this 3yo topic?

I am in the same loop. my 5 and a half year son, the only child is going through the same issues that the original person had mentioned. i am at my wits end in the sense that I am doubting what I am doing. Please help.

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