Shy Kids: How to Help Kids Make Friends

Dear Mr. Dad: Our daughter is very shy and seems to have very few friends. My wife and I worry that there’s something wrong with her and we want to help her make more friends. What can we do?

A: There’s no magic number of friends a child should have and your child’s temperament will play a major role in determining whether she has one or a dozen (more on this below). Your job should be to stress quality not quantity. Here’s how you can help:

  • Actively encourage your child to get involved in playgroups, either by setting them up yourself or by joining a group of other parents of preschoolers. While it comes naturally to some, for others, making friends takes a lot of practice. Kids who don't have ample opportunities to interact with other children may never learn how.
  • Keep your child’s temperament in mind. “Active kids who adapt well to new situations have the most friends,” says James Cameron, Ph.D., director of The Preventive Ounce in Oakland, California. “But kids who are shy and slower to adapt usually have far fewer—but much deeper—friendships. They often have trouble handling any more than one friend at a time and tend to have ‘serial friendships’ instead.” On a play date, your active child will take off with a new or old friend the minute you get in the door, and he might not even notice when you leave. But if you have a shy child, expect some clinginess and plan on sticking around for a while. Telling both children a story or getting the two of them set up with an art project can really help break the ice.
  • If your child is having some trouble making friends, ask her teacher to pair her with another child who’s having the same problems. And when inviting other children over, make sure that you keep the number of guests to one or two. The trick here is to get your child involved in doing something with another child that she would enjoy doing on her own.

About the Author:

Armin Brott bestselling books including the recent release Fathering Your School Age Child have helped millions of men around the world become the fathers they want to be—and their children need them to be. His most recent is Fathering Your School-Age Child. Armin has been a guest on hundreds of radio and television shows, writes a nationally syndicated column, “Ask Mr. Dad,” and hosts a weekly radio show. He and his family live in Oakland, California. You can contact him at [email protected].