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Every parent knows schoolyard friendships are important.

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Developmentally speaking, making a friend in school is every bit as important as getting an A. Learning how to form successful peer relationships is a critical skill for kids, and one that they will be using—and refining—all their lives. But some kids have a harder time fitting in. Cornerstones of childhood interaction, like sharing a toy or engaging in make-believe, might elude them. If you see your child struggling to make friends or getting rejected by other kids, here are some steps you can take to help.

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Impulsive and hyperactive children often act in ways that stymie their strong desire for friendship, notes Mary Rooney, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in ADHD and disruptive behavior disorders. More inattentive kids may act flighty or hover at the margins of playgroups, unsure of how to assert themselves. If you notice that your child is struggling to interact with his peers, try some coaching at home.

Emphasize taking turns and sharing during family playtime and explain that friends expect the same good behavior. Impulsive children will also benefit from practicing different strategies for settling peer conflict.

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Role playing can be very helpful here. Of course, as a parent you should also be careful to demonstrate good social behavior yourself when talking to family members and your own friends. Social scripts are especially helpful for children on the autism spectrum who need to deliberately learn key social skills, such as establishing eye contact and responding to the moods of others.

Finally, if your child has been having a hard time making friends, Dr. Rooney suggests setting up a meeting with his teacher. Supervised playdates are a great way for children to build their social muscles. Rooney suggests that parents spend some time before playdates reviewing social cues with their children. Some activities for playdate-prep include:. And when you review how it went, focus on the good behaviors you want to reinforce. Some kids are natural social butterflies while others need more time to warm up to new situations.

Busman suggests planning playdates at your house first, where your child will be most at ease. Clubs or other activities are also a good way to make friends because they provide built-in structure that helps minimize anxiety. If your child is reluctant, try finding a familiar peer to the activity with her. As with any social skill, parents can help shy kids rehearse ahead of time for a situation that makes them nervous, like going to a birthday party or meeting a new group of people.

Busman notes there is also a difference between children who are shy and children who are simply more introverted and prefer spending their down time reading or drawing by themselves. Busman recommends knowing how much your child can handle and setting expectations accordingly. Rooney advises keeping things in perspective. Practice during playdates Supervised playdates are a great way for children to build their social muscles.

Some activities for playdate-prep include: Talk with your child about what it means to be a good host. What will your child do to make her guests feel comfortable? Have your child pick out a few games in advance. Ask your child how she will know if her guests are having a good time. Are they smiling? Every child is different Dr. Was this helpful?

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Who s up hot and needs a friend

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