8 Ways to Help Your Child Make Strong Offline Friendships

By Andrea Nelson
August 17, 2023

Although kids can benefit from their online friendships, there is still tremendous value in forming strong relationships offline. But how to help your child make friends in the real world? If you have a preteen who spends hours online playing video games with their friends or chatting on Discord rather than hanging out in person, you’re probably eager to help them take some of their social time off the internet. We've got you covered.

Read on for tips on how you can help your preteen build and maintain strong offline friendships.  

How to help your child make friends

1. Don’t ban — expand

The goal here is to add to your child’s social landscape, not subtract from it. Forcing them to reduce their time spent in online communities may end up making them feel isolated and lonely. 

Instead of banning them from hanging out with their friends online, help them add in-person activities. Some examples of in-person activities for tweens include movie nights, camping trips, and playing games at the park. 

Over time, as their confidence and their friendships grow, they’re likely to naturally reduce their time spent online.  

2. Help them build social skills  

Many preteens struggle with social skills — especially after the disruption the pandemic caused in their lives at such a pivotal age. If your kid needs help learning how to connect with others, they might benefit from a social skills group. To locate one, ask at a community center, your kid’s school, or local mental health providers who serve kids. 

3. Set realistic expectations

It’s important to remember that your child may not be as social and outgoing as you are, and that’s okay. Don’t expect your preteen to totally change who they are and become a social butterfly. 

Instead, measure progress incrementally. Are they spending a little more time with their friends in real life? Are they interested in joining an in-person club or sport? Do they want to go over to a friend’s house more often? Those are all signs that your child is developing stronger offline friendships. 

4. Suggest extracurriculars  

Activities based around common interests are a great way for kids to connect with others and make new friends. Help your kid find an activity that interests them by checking out the offerings at school and local community centers. 

5. Encourage volunteering

Coming together for a purpose helps forge bonds. Encourage your child to volunteer for a cause that’s meaningful to them. Be sure to look for opportunities that are geared toward kids so they’re more likely to be surrounded by peers.  

6. Have them try a sport 

If your kiddo isn’t particularly athletic or competitive, there are still plenty of less traditional sports they might enjoy. Rock climbing, parkour, and roller derby are all great options to explore. 

7. Start slow  

If your preteen is obsessed with playing video games online with friends, try meeting them where they’re at and suggest they invite people over to play video games at your home. It may still be time spent on the screen, but it’s certainly a move in the right direction!

8. Host in-person hang outs 

Sometimes, all it takes is a little nudge and the right opportunity. Offer to host your kid’s friends for an after-school or weekend hang. If you don’t have the space at your home, take them to a park, a movie, or the mall. 

In short

The social life of preteens often exists largely in online spaces. While there is some value to this, in-person relationships are also important. If you’re wondering how to help your child make friends, you can help your child discover opportunities to connect with other kids in real life. Start by paying attention to what they currently enjoy doing or have shown an interest in pursuing.

Be the most informed parent in the room.
Sign up for bimonthly digital parenting updates.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
@2024 Tacita, Inc. All Rights Reserved.