How Can I Help My Shy Child Make New Friends?
My child says it is too hard to play with new kids. Aren’t we supposed to step outside our comfort zone?
The first thing I suggest is to ask your child what makes this hard? Why does she avoid trying new things and joining in? The beauty of asking questions is that it allows the child to identify – for themselves – why this is the case and what lies outside their comfort zone. Your child may truly not know what to do or how to join in.
Identify Something Each of You Can Work OnMake a pact with your child to each step outside your comfort zones and try something new. Work on something hard for you and your child will work on this. Let her pick any activity, group or sport that she can just show up to. Introduce the concept of the comfort zone tool. We all know how it feels to tackle something outside our comfort zone—all the more when it’s something hard for us. (Read more about Comfort Zone on pages 147-149 in Why Will No One Play With Me?)
Comfort ZoneThis exercise is a low-stress way to engage the child who is struggling to keep an open mind or start the process. If your child has trouble with change, shows less buy-in than you wish or who says there is no problem, this can be invaluable.
Outside Comfort Zone Exercise
- Explain what it means when something is “outside your comfort zone” – What is “outside comfort zone”? Use examples from your own daily life. What things do you do easily every day? What things push you toward the edge of your comfort zone or clearly outside it? For example, I was nervous to learn to ski. It felt uncomfortable at first. You can prompt your child by asking questions about this idea of being uncomfortable and stretching to get beyond it. “Remember when you went to a new soccer team and felt like you wanted to stay with the old one?” Explain that in order to change and grow, we all must be willing to lean into discomfort and engage in the process.
- Outside comfort zone circle – On a piece of paper, have your child draw a large circle to represent his comfort zone. Leave a margin around the circle—that’s going to be the space for things outside his comfort zone. Ask him to jot outside the circle some things that are outside his comfort zone. Let your child tell you what those are.
- Inside comfort zone circle – Ask him to jot inside it things he does that are inside his comfort zone. These might include joining in with younger kids, staying out of the lunchroom, sitting only with one safe friend, things he loves like Legos, going to grandparents’ house, the after school program he prefers, eating favorite foods, playing with the same people or in the same place.
- Inside or Out? If your child hasn’t already named specific social expectations or situations, then ask, “Would _____ be inside your comfort zone or outside your comfort zone?”