Children who have experienced a lot of disruption in their childhoods often have difficulty knowing how to play with friends. They often did not have a lot of traditional childhood activities and fewer opportunities to learn how to play with friends.
I found that my kiddos would self-destruct shortly after a friend arrived for a playdate, often sabotaging the event themselves. I found a few strategies that helped my kids learn to negotiate ordinary friend time.
Here are two.
1. Start at an outside event.
Invite a friend to come with your child or your family when you go for an activity... a movie, a playground trip, a trip to the kids museum, a ballfield, even just on a walk. This lets the two play and interact without having to manage the activity themselves. It lets you observe and figure out where your child's weaknesses are [sharing?, conversation?, what?] It also lets you observe the potential friend watching both for the same thing and for things the child enjoys doing. This helps a lot when you plan how to move to a playtime at home.
2. Start small.
When you have the friend over to your house, plan for a short time. A whole day, even a whole afternoon may be too much for some children. I like to start with an invite for either an hour, or lunch, or supper, or even only an hour including the meal. I usually have the two play in the living room first [within my hearing to sense how its going], then we either fix and eat a snack or lunch, then if everything is going well let them have the last 1/3 of the time playing together outside, or in their room. I have a reason to step in every 5-10 minutes to keep them posted on how long before I take the friend home so they are ready and prepared. At the end I offer to help them put everything back together, picking up toys etc with them. This accomplishes three things: a-- They know I expect it done, b-- They know that I expect them to do it together, and c- I am there at this higher risk time to help with the possible mood shifts from either picking up or the end of the playdate.
On Thursday's Parenting Tips I will give some small warnings about friends and playdates and next Tuesday's Focus on Fostering I will explain the "Play Planner" that helped my children finally succeed with friends over to play. See you then!
Image credits: littlelearnersacademyga.com, flickr.com,blog