Having good friendships is really important. The better quality relationships you have, the greater likelihood of your happiness. Follow these tips to help you and your children have great friendships.

The word 'friends' standing against a plane brick fence

Having good friendships is really important. The better quality relationships you have, the greater likelihood of your happiness. It is equally important to be a good friend as it is to have good friends. 70% of children and young people with a disability aged between 0 and 14 are able to make friends outside of their family. However, this can drop dramatically when aged between 15 and 24.

Dependent on the type of disability that you or your child may have, they may have a harder time making friends. This may be because they have difficulty starting conversations, understanding social cues and body language or solving social problems.

Tips for Children and Young People

As well as providing a positive self-image, making friends is crucial to feeling connected and accepted

The following is a guide to socialising and provides some key tips:

  • Work on your self-awareness – be aware of who you are, what you believe and what your values are
  • It takes time – building a group of friends can take time. You need to be patient
  • Remain true to yourself – you shouldn’t feel the need to change around new friends. Your friendships won’t be genuine

Friends can be made in a variety of ways. Normal ways you can think of like school, but there are alternative ways of finding new friends. 

  • Hobby and special interest groups
  • Social events
  • Online through groups on Facebook and other social media channels

How to keep friends

Keeping friends is just as important as making friends:

  • Appreciate friends - try not to take friends for granted and take the time to thank them for the nice things they've done.
  • Offer time and attention - remember to check how a friend is going and try to do some enjoyable activities with them when you can.
  • Be kind and forgiving - understand that a friend may make mistakes or hurt their feelings unintentionally. This should not be a reason to end the friendship.
  • Avoid jealousy - it is important for a young person to understand that we can have as many friends as we want, and that having other close relationships does not mean a friend is not faithful.

Tips for Parents and Carers

Children and young people with a disability are more at risk of social exclusion. Here are some tips that may help you to support your child in making friends:

  • Provide some information about your child's disability to the school (if applicable)
  • Teach other children and young people the different ways that they can communicate with your child
  • Prepare your child to answer questions that other people may ask about their disability
  • Ask the teacher to pair your child with a similar-aged child who is good at forming friendships
  • Offer your child some positive role models by telling stories about people with a disability who achieved their own personal goals and ambitions
  • Aide and fade – provide the opportunity and tools to allow your child to explore if they want to, befriend someone, then step back and let it happen naturally
  • Model positive social skills – by teaching one social skill at a time, children can learn to confidently speak in a clear voice, as an example. 
  • Get together with other children to encourage them to interact with their peers.
  • Encourage a wide range of activities. Children will likely have something in common with others where they can relate and find it easier to get along.

Need some help finding social activities for your children? Or are you looking to find more friends and unsure where to start? Contact IDEAS on 1800 029 904 or visit www.ideas.org.au for support and advice.

Resource: ReachOut - What makes a good friend?