If you’re caring for a child who’s on the shy side, you’ve probably noticed that it can be a little difficult for them to make friends – especially in all the bustle of school. The good news is that there’s lots you can do to help your shy child gain confidence.
So, how to make friends at school if your shy? The steps below are a good starting point, and if you’re a foster carer, you can always get extra support from other carers and the Compass Fostering network if you need it.
One of the easiest ways for children to grow their social circle is to make friends with their mates’ friends. You can help by encouraging – or even arranging – supervised group activities with your foster child’s schoolmates.
Choose age-appropriate activities that will give them something to focus on together – board games, puzzles and crafts can be good options for quieter children. Chat with your child beforehand about social cues, such as how to tell if the other children are having fun and how to decide when to switch activities.
Get them involved
A great way to increase the chances of a child making friends is by getting them involved in something they enjoy. Sports, drama, and other after-school activities will get your foster child into a structured environment with other children who like the same things – and make getting to know one another a lot easier.
Practice social scripts
Some shy children have a hard time making the first move or responding when someone approaches them – and that can make them seem unsociable.
Work with your foster child to practice smiling and saying hello to new people, and asking follow-up questions. It can also be good to practice giving and receiving compliments, as this is an easy way to start a conversation.
Build their confidence
Shyness and low self-esteem often go hand-in-hand. Help your foster child build confidence by giving them plenty of praise and positive reinforcement. Encourage them to reflect on their good qualities – you might even want to help them make a list that they can look at when they feel down.
Independence is also an important part of building confidence for children. Letting your child do things on their own shows them that they are capable of tackling tasks – including social ones – without help. Start small so your child feels a sense of achievement.
Get them talking
Public speaking can be difficult for shy children, but makes a huge difference in their confidence.
Start by finding small ways for your foster child to get up and speak or read, such as presenting the dinner menu or reading the back of a DVD case before watching a film. Make it a fun activity where the whole family joins in, and be generous with praise afterwards. Over time, your child should become more comfortable with speaking up in class and participating in group activities.
The value of curiosity
Curiosity is a powerful force – so powerful, it can even overcome shyness. Cultivate curiosity by encouraging your foster child to ask questions and learn more about things that interest them. An attitude of open curiosity about the world around them will help your child reach other to others with similar interests.
Positive thinking is a great tool for children and adults alike. Before going into a stressful situation, such as a new school or unfamiliar environment, encourage your foster child to think positively about it. Try using affirmations like, ‘I’m going to learn lots of interesting new things today,’ or ‘I’m going to play my best and have fun no matter what’. When they come home, keep the focus on the positive by reflecting on the things that went well during their day.
It can take children a little bit of time to get comfortable in new situations, so be patient – especially if your foster child is a new addition to your home. Encouragement and positivity will go a long way towards helping them feel comfortable being themselves at home and at school.
Many children in care suffer from attachment disorder due to their unstable backgrounds – and that means making friends can be harder than usual. Let their teachers and learning support staff know that your child is shy or is struggling to make friends, as they can be a valuable resource in supporting your foster child.
Don’t worry too much if they only have one or two friends to start – not everyone is destined to be a social butterfly. Developing close relationships, even with just a couple of peers, can help your child learn the social skills he or she will need to be successful in life.
Being a foster carer is an incredible opportunity to become a positive influence in a child’s life – and with Compass Fostering, you’ll get all the support you need to be a great foster carer for every child. Get in touch to find out more about what it’s like to foster with Compass.