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Sunday, 25 March 2001

My Child Has No Friends

Written by  Karen Goldberg, MSSW

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QOur four-year-old son doesn't have friends yet. He is content to play with children in his nursery school and once in a great while will play with one of them in the afternoon, but he hasn't formed friendships. Should I be worried? Is there anything I should be doing?

AGuest expert Karen Goldberg, MSSW, answers:

When children begin forming friendships depends on personality, experience and lifestyle. If this is your child's first group experience, it is not surprising that he hasn't yet made friends. If, however, he has been in day care or nursery school since the age of two and still doesn't have friends at four, I would speak to his nursery school teacher about what is happening in the school socially. Does she encourage small group activities and one-on-one activities among the children?

Also, ask yourself what you do to encourage your child to play with other children? Do you make play dates for him and then sit with the other parent (if he is not ready to let you leave him at a friend's house?) A neighborhood park is a good place to meet other children. Play dates can be made at the park and eventually at each other's homes.

So many of our own activities center around individualism today, including television, videos, computers, and TV games like Nintendo. Don't we as parents sometimes sit the little ones in front a box (any one of them!) so that we can have time to ourselves -- even if it's only to do household chores? It is important that we take a look at what we are encouraging in our children. What emphasis do we put on socializing?


Get together on a regular basis with another mother and baby so your child can get used to playing next to another child.

In nursery school, encourage the teacher to suggest to children to play together. Take the initiative to set up play dates after school with children your child likes. Set up dates with other mothers to take your children to the museum, the library for story hour, the community center or for activities like gymnastics, music or swimming. Above all, be patient and understanding. Encourage, but don't push. Some of us take longer to make friends than others.

If you feel that you have tried many avenues and the child still doesn't or can't make friends, or if he seems too introverted or too sad-looking, it may be time to seek professional help. If some trauma or crisis has occurred, like the birth of a new sibling, a move to a new home, or the prolonged absence of a parent, your child may become clingy or want to stay home. Be patient and supportive.

Most important, just be there for your child. He needs friends, but at this age, he needs you more!

Last modified on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 20:20
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Karen Goldberg, MSSW

Karen Goldberg, MSSW, is a child and adolescent psychotherapist.

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