Learning to make friends is one of the most important skills your child can learn that will benefit him throughout his entire life. Having close friends has been known to help people live longer, happier lives, as well as become more successful at school and work.

Not all children are innately socially adept; some children who may be shy or have behavioral challenges such as ADHD may need additional assistance in learning age-appropriate social skills. However, all children can benefit from their parents guiding them in the friendship department.

There are some key techniques you can use with your children to help them make friends, even from a very young age.

  • Teach simple, daily social greetings. If you have a toddler or preschooler, you can teach your child about kindness by practicing simple daily interactions. You can ask your toddler to practice saying hello and goodbye, with a smile, to others as you are out and about at the grocery store or at the park.
  • One-on-one playdates are important. Invite one of the neighborhood kids over to your house for an afternoon of arts and crafts, playing dolls, or playing in the backyard. Take a trip to the library or museum with your child and invite a mom friend and her child of a similar age to join you. One-on-one playdates are the best opportunities for bonding and shared experiences that your child can build on when they go to school.
  • Teach children how to have conversations that lead to connections. When my children were young, I would give them icebreakers before we would enter social situations. They learned to ask questions such as “What’s your favorite color?” or “What type of books do you like to read?” This helped them from a young age make connections with others through shared interests and experiences. It also taught them the importance of being a good listener.
  • Help your children find group activities that interest them. Does your child like to sing or paint? Is your child really into sports? Help them by engaging them in clubs and activities with others who share their interests. Children like “sameness,” and while you don’t need to teach them to be followers, you can help them feel comfortable by leading them to situations where they have the opportunity to interact with other children who have similar likes and dislikes.
  • If you have a particularly anxious child, always listen and observe them very carefully. Give this child more time to rehearse and practice what they might say in social situations. Practicing and rehearsing social skills in a safe and warm environment, such as home, will support your child by teaching him social cues, as well as age-appropriate social skills practices. Also, impulse control and empathy can be taught to children. These strategies can help your child relate to his peers in a positive way.
  • Be what you want to see. Modeling good social behavior yourself, of course, is one of the best ways to teach by example. Show your child how you warmly greet friends, how you empathize with them when they are dealing with a difficult situation, how you ask questions and listen carefully to their answers, and emphasize the importance these friends have in your life.
  • Keep in mind that children will make mistakes socially because they are still immature and don’t understand. There’s nothing wrong with your child, he just needs to be taught social skills and problem solving on a regular basis until he can fully understand.

You have to know how to be a friend in order to have a friend. As parents, we can help our children understand what it is to be a friend. It is our job to teach them about the importance of relationships rather than keeping them isolated, so that they can learn to build meaningful friendships throughout their lifetime.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at EmpowHER.com since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Amazon.com. Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.