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Trouble making and keeping friends:

Some children are more likely to exhibit this sign of relationship problems than others. For example, if a child has changed neighborhoods and schools, difficulty making and keeping friends is more likely; or if his life-experiences have not taught him good interpersonal and relationship skills, having the problem is nearly inevitable. A child who has low self-esteem and deals less well with the give-and-take of friends and the social scene likely have this problem to some degree.

Most children move out from a solid base at home into other relationships, enabling them to try many relationships while always having those at home. Children who do not have this solid base will certainly have this problem. Because of this, relationships they do find are more important to them. For example, they can easily become too possessive and smother the other person; or they may try too hard to please and to be part of the group, making them very vulnerable to mistreatment and exploitation.

Your child needs to be taught about friends and relationships. Approach your teaching task like this. “Getting a friend starts by hanging around with people who are like you want to be. Pick people who seem to value what you value. Next, talk and join in without being pushy. After a while, you’ll notice you talk more with some of them than others. There’ll be two or three you talk with the most. You and they are becoming friends. There’re also some ways to keep friends and ways that turn them off. We can talk about that as time goes on.” By talking to him like this, you are modeling an example of friendly behavior and are teaching him relationship skills. It is a slow but rewarding process.

Be sure you also make a point to include him in family activities, at church, in the neighborhood, or in community organizations. This gives him a chance to see other healthy families and to make friends. Although child-only activities may be too stressful for him at first, family activities are safe and provide good opportunities to observe, coach, and support him.

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