My child doesn't have a good friend in class. What can I do?

Friendships are important for young school-age children. If you notice that your child is a bit of a loner in school, don't jump in at once and prejudge the situation. Some children might be shy and cautious by nature, while other children might just have trouble finding a right fit with classmates. A first step would be to talk to the child's teacher to get a sense of what's happening in class. It is not uncommon that a child doesn't have a "best" friend in class but instead a lot of friends. Furthermore, friendship should come from the children themselves; don't expect your child to make friends with whoever you pick out from the child's class. Don't pressure your child by mandating friendship to happen; it has to occur naturally. However, you can lend a hand to build friendship. Promoting good social experience can facilitate friendship building. For example, organize small playdates with activities that your child enjoys, or even ask your child what he or she would like to do. Plan ahead to ensure that the playdate goes smoothly and with little pressure. Participate in the playdate yourself so your child can see that it is enjoyable. The goal is to give your child a memorable and enjoyable social experience so that your child will want more. In most cases, shyness and difficulty making friends can be normal. But if other signs such as difficulty in communicating feelings, lack of eye contact, or irregular tantrums and behaviors could be red flags indicating that something else is going on. At those times, it might be advisable to talk to your pediatrician to see if there are deeper underlying problems.

Jennie Ito, Ph.D.

Child Development Expert

Jennie Ito is a mother of two and a child development consultant who specializes in children’s play and toys. Before becoming a consultant for LeapFrog, she was an intern at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and later worked as a content expert for the Association of Children’s Museum’s “Playing for Keeps” Play Initiative. Jennie earned her doctorate degree in developmental psychology at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.