Daycare is a great experience for children. In daycare, kids develop important social skills, learn educational concepts such as reading, math, and vocabulary, and build up their own independence.
However, your child may be more nervous than anything about starting daycare. Making friends is a good way to help your child understand that daycare is a fun place to be. Here are some ways you can help your child make friends at daycare.
Befriend other parents
Befriending another parent of a child in daycare can be a good introduction to one of the children your child will see on a regular basis. If you schedule play dates in a familiar environment or spend time with the new parent and child outside of daycare, both children can get to know each other without the added social complications that other children can sometimes bring. An added benefit is that you also get to spend time with a friendly new face, and can share parenting and daycare tips and advice.
Offer advice for social situations
As you know, social skills are the result of years of practice. This means that you will likely need to coach your preschooler on how to navigate certain social situations. For example, showing your child how to share, explaining why taking turns is important, and demonstrating compromise and collaboration. Practice conversational skills together. Teach him some things she can say or do if she wants to join other children in play.
Encourage empathy and emotional control
Adults know that sometimes two people just don’t get along, or there are misunderstandings that are easily resolved. But for a preschooler, play can easily turn into conflict. You can help your child deal with these situations by encouraging her to think about how others feel (“Do you think Adrian was sad when you pushed him?”), and by demonstrating ways to work through negative emotions.
Studies have shown that children whose negative emotions are punished or made light of tend to develop issues with self-control. So encourage your child to think about the feelings of others, and teach coping strategies for when emotions run high.
Don’t force things
Sometimes, as with adults, kids have to learn how to develop their own social skills. Offering helpful guidance and advice to your preschooler can help her understand how to best approach another child, but kids learn best by hands-on experience. And don’t forget that toddlers socialize differently from older children. Don’t be surprised if your toddler’s parallel play – playing alongside but not with another child – blossoms into its own kind of friendship.
What if your preschooler just can’t seem to see eye-to-eye with another child in daycare? If all options have been explored, you may just need to accept that a friendship is not in the cards. It might just be a clash of personalities. In this case, it’s best to help your child understand that it’s not a reflection of her and use this as an opportunity to teach tolerance and acceptance of other’s differences.
Ask the teacher for guidance
Your child’s daycare teacher is a great person to involve in helping your child make friends. She’s there with him every day, and has firsthand knowledge of the existing social dynamics in daycare. Perhaps the teacher could encourage your child to play more with a new friend, or can steer him away from someone he just doesn’t get along with. She may also have some further insight on how you can help your child make friends.
Helping your child make friends in daycare may seem like a very difficult task at the beginning. However, befriending other parents, teaching your child about social issues and behaviors, and asking your daycare teacher for advice can make all the difference. Soon enough you may marvel at how much fun your child is having in daycare with all his new friends.