Making and keeping friends
Making friends and keeping friends can be difficult for any child. Children who were born premature might have particular difficulties with the social communication skills needed to make and keep friends. When people talk about “social communication skills” they are usually referring to what someone does when interacting with other people. These skills can affect how a child makes and keeps friends and how well the child is liked by his/her peers – all of which can have an impact on a child’s enjoyment of school, academic skills, mental health, and communication skill development.
Struggles with social communication are common. When a child has trouble fitting in, it can be stressful for the child and their parents. The child’s difficulties may be related to one or more of the following social communication difficulties:
- The child has not yet developed the social communication skills to interact successfully with their peers in at least some situations. These skills might include paying attention to others, playing in a way that allows others to enjoy the activity; engaging in back-and-forth conversations and considering others’ needs and feelings;
- The child may want to interact and knows what they can do to join their peers but their timing may not be ideal (e.g., telling a joke at a time when people are discussing something serious). This may result in peers moving away from the child;
- The child feels uncomfortable (e.g., shy, anxious) interacting with peers despite having developed the necessary skills. This may lead to the child not trying to join peers;
- The child’s attention is constantly changing, making it difficult for peers to pay attention to each other.