What can parents do to support healthy friendships for their children?

All children deserve to experience the joy of friendship. However, some children have more trouble than others making and keeping friends. In particular, kids with autism may be unsure of how to communicate and interact with their peers. If your child has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or another developmental difference, one of the most effective things you can do to encourage social skills is to have your child work with an ABA therapist. In addition, consider incorporating the following strategies. 

Get involved from an early age. 

As children grow older, friendships become more important to them. However, older children are also less likely to talk to their parents about their friends. It’s important to establish active involvement from an early age to set the stage for your child’s preteen and adolescent years. Actively monitor your young child’s play dates. Provide guidance on social skills and correct inappropriate behaviors when necessary. Encourage open communication with your child. Talk to your child often about his or her friends, and make an effort to get better acquainted with those friends and their parents. 

Help your child resolve conflicts peacefully. 

Whenever two people are close to each other, a conflict will inevitably arise at some point. The conflict itself is not necessarily what’s primarily damaging to the friendship. Rather, the way in which the two friends manage the conflict will determine whether the friendship survives. Talk to your child’s ABA therapy provider if your child seems to have trouble handling conflict. It can be helpful to teach your child to take a deep breath and walk away to calm down before addressing the situation. Additionally, kids need to learn how to see things from the other person’s perspective. They also need to learn how to make amends, such as by apologizing. 

Children with developmental differences can learn to make and keep friends in our Social Skills group at The Behavior Exchange. Our ABA centers in Frisco and Plano help children understand how to behave appropriately and give them opportunities to master their new skills. Call us at 888.716.8084, and be sure to ask us about our parent training classes! 

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