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Why some kids have trouble making friends

By Andrew M.I. Lee, JD

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Why do some kids not have friends? This can be a painful question to ask. When kids aren’t invited places or don’t have anyone to hang out with, it can be hard not to wonder — and worry.

Making and keeping friends is a skill. Some kids develop it naturally at a young age, while others need more time. In some cases, kids simply haven’t met anyone they can connect with.

Different challenges can also get in the way. Some kids get too nervous or anxious to talk to others. Some can start a conversation, but they have trouble coming up with things to talk about. Or they might talk about something other kids aren’t interested in, without noticing the other kids tuning out.

When kids struggle with making friends, it might not have anything to do with their personality. It also doesn’t mean that a child isn’t likeable or funny. It may just mean the child needs a hand building social skills. 

Dive deeper

Skills kids need to make friends

The ability to make and keep friends is a skill that must be learned. It’s trickier than it seems. It involves things like:

  • Starting a conversation and keeping it going

  • Responding to social cues

  • Interacting in a positive way

  • Listening to others and understanding what they’re saying

Some kids take more time than others to learn these skills. Common challenges like hyperactivity, anxiety, or delayed language can make it harder. Get more information on learning and thinking differences that impact social skills .

Social rules that some kids miss

Every setting has social rules that we follow. For example, there are natural pauses in conversations that help us take turns talking.

Rules may also vary. It’s OK for kids to yell on the playground, but not in the classroom. In some cultures, people stand closer than in other cultures. All of this can be hard for kids to understand.  

Find out about five “unwritten” social rules that some kids miss .

Next steps

You can help kids learn how to make friends. Start by pinpointing where the child needs help. Is it conversation, social rules, or something else? Try role-playing together, and work together on skills like:

Practice is key. The more kids interact with others, the better they’ll get at making friends. You can find playgroups on social media and through schools.

Even if kids have the skills to make friends, they may not have met the right people yet. Friendship is often based on common interests. A young comics fan might just need a book club to meet someone. Get tips on how to help a child “fit in.”

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom