Parents do a lot of the work of choosing friends for their preschoolers. After all, we plan the playdates.
Cliques don’t form too often among very young children, but it happens sometimes. And kids with learning and attention issues may be more sensitive to them than other kids.
When kids form their own friendships and groups of friends, it’s typically with children who have similar skill levels. Children who aren’t yet as adept at catching a ball or coloring may feel left out. Here are some ways you can help as preschool clique issues play out.
Guide your child to a good group.
The scenario: Your child’s dyspraxia makes him shy on the playground. He sits near two boys at the sandbox every day. But they never invite him to play.
What you can do: Observe the boys. Does your child have the skills to play the way they do? If so, role-play at home how he could approach them.
But if they’re playing at a level that seems too advanced for him, consider heading elsewhere. Your child might be more successful with the kids at an art studio or library.
Teach your child to manage overexcitement.
The scenario: At preschool, your child (who has hyperactivity issues) sometimes gets overexcited playing fire trucks with friends. He screeches like a siren, and the other kids walk away.
What you can do: Role-play fire trucks at home to show your child how things can “go south” for him if you get overexcited. Ask if it makes playing less fun.
Then teach him ways to manage his excitement: deep breathing, getting a drink of water, etc. Explain that if these techniques help him play without screaming, his friends won’t leave.
Help your child avoid behavior triggers.
The scenario: At your child’s preschool, kids are assigned to lunch tables, and most tables play together after lunch. But if your child doesn’t get PB&J in his lunchbox, he has a tantrum. Then the other kids don’t want to play with him.
What you can do: If your child has food sensitivities, it’s understandable that you might want to expand his palate. But try to pick the right time and place to work on his food issues. If new foods are a tantrum trigger, leave them for when you’re together. Give him whatever makes it easiest for him to engage with his peers at school.
Show your child how to look for alternatives.
The scenario: Your child is a Legos wizard at home. But at school, a group of four kids dominates the Lego table and won’t make room for him. He feels left out but doesn’t know how to join in.
What you can do: Validate your child’s hurt feelings but help him problem-solve how he can play with Legos without personalizing the situation. Could he ask the teacher to set up a sign-up sheet? Is there room for a second Lego station? What other activity might he enjoy doing?
Your child’s issues with cliques and friends are likely to change as he gets older. Explore Parenting Coach for tips on how to meet new challenges as they come up.