My Son is Struggling to Make Friends

On the day I had my first son Dax, I didn’t have very many expectations for him. He was healthy, which was my number one priority, and after that, I didn’t really care about much else. I didn’t (and still don’t) care what he career he chooses, or where he lives, or what his hobbies are. All I care about was that he is a friend to basically anyone, and treats others the way he would like to be treated.

At almost five years old, that’s still the one thing I harp on the most with Dax.  I tell him that it is important for us to love everyone, even when they’re hard to love (or, as he says, when they “make bad choices”). And for the most part, he is pretty good about living by that rule.

There’s just one problem with this whole thing; not all children have been raised this way.

This year, as Dax has been in preschool getting ready for Kindergarten, he’s been exceling academically, but struggling socially. More often than not, when I pick him up from preschool, he is downtrodden. He believes that “no one” is his friend and, when he asks to play with other kids, he is often denied. As his mom, it totally breaks my heart that he is hurting in this way, but at the same time, I know that most four-year-olds are selfish and fickle, with fleeting desires and loyalties, so I tend to poo-poo the whole situation and roll my eyes.

But Dax’s feelings are valid, and so my husband and I have been working together to try and mitigate them appropriately.

The first way we are doing this is finding every opportunity in our house to reinforce Dax’s self-worth, completely independent of anyone else’s opinion of him. Whenever he is doodling, or building block towers, I make it a point to get down on the floor with him and examine his work. Usually, the things he draws or builds impress me, and I make it a point to tell him so. I tell him things like, “I love how creative you are – you can build anything you can dream of with these blocks,” or, “It’s so fun to see your brain work so hard while you learn new things.” These are things that, regardless of whether or not a kid wants to play with him at school, are positive, true, and unchanging, unlike the preferences of his fellow classmates.

Secondly, my husband and I are encouraging Dax to be confident enough to recognize when he is being treated unfairly, and to speak up. While I don’t want my kid to be a tattle-tale by any means, I also don’t want him to be a doormat. He is a kind person, whose feelings are real, so when he is feeling left out or frustrated, I want him to feel confident enough to ask for help from his teachers. I’m hoping that this confidence transcends his entire upbringing, causing him to later speak out for those who maybe don’t have the ability to speak for themselves.

Lastly, we are doing our best to focus on love and friendship within our home. Whenever I pick Dax up and he tells me that no one is his friend at school, I start listing off all of the friends we know from church or other places that come over and play with us. I also remind him that no matter what happens with his friendships, he’ll always have his daddy, his mommy, and his little brother to play with. We’re a family, so we’re always going to stick together. I hope that this gives him a little security that he can hold onto in those moments at school when he feels lonely.

As is the case with everything else with raising Dax, this is our first go at this whole friendship deal. We have no idea what we’re doing, but even still, we’re doing our best. For the most part, we’re seeing some pretty encouraging results, but we’ll just have to see what happens the rest of the school year (and when he goes to Kindergarten in the fall).