Five Ways to Cultivate Friendships
2. Plan Fun Activities
My idea of a great play date is a friend coming over, and then she and my daughter disappear for two hours. Someday….maybe! Until that day comes, it is my job to help her understand how to entertain a guest. Before the play date, we plan and prepare fun activities that both kids will enjoy. I help her think through the other child ’s interests and what she might want to do; then I prepare her to take turns with her friend in choosing from the list of activities. On the play date, if the conversation lulls, I jump in with a new topic. If the kids aren’t meshing in an activity, I help them gracefully switch to something else. If nothing is working, I bring out that super messy, fun activity that you know no other parent in their right mind would allow their kids to do. For example, if the play date goes downhill, the shaving cream comes out. We do shaving cream on the trampoline, shaving cream wars in the yard, or shaving cream hairstyles. I also keep a stash of cool arts and crafts projects that most any kid would enjoy.
3. Engage in Random Acts of Kindness
Thoughtfulness is so important in any friendship. I help my daughter think of what her friends like, and then we write random notes, drop off little fun gifts and go the extra mile with each friend. This way the friend feels loved even though my daughter is sometimes unable to express her genuine interest when they are together. I am amazed at how much my daughter enjoys doing this and often comes up with her own ideas to tell her friends how much she loves them
4. Arrange Regular Outings
The more frequent the play dates, the better chance your child has to get to know his/her peers. We took my daughter’s interests and tried to incorporate other kids into things she already loves to participate in. For example, we set up a gymnastics class for her and her friends at a local gym. We hired a yoga teacher and had a yoga class at our house. We invited friends to church on Wednesday nights and drove them both ways. The more things you are in charge of, the more you can tailor them to ensure your child will stay engaged.
5. Show Gratitude
Yes, you are putting in more effort than the typical parents, but don’t forget to show your gratitude anyway. Make sure to let the other parent know how much you appreciate them allowing their child to come over or participate in an activity. Sometimes, if a parent realizes they are really making a difference in your life, they will want to do more to help.
Julie Hornok is a writer, wife, mom, and passionate advocate for families living with autism. Her works have been seen in The Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Thrive Magazine, Yoga Digest Magazine and many more publications. When she’s not busy driving her three kids all over town, She loves to give back to the community by planning special needs events.
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