LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – It’s Parenting Connection Tuesday and 6 News is here for you with tips, strategies, and helpful reminders from child development experts on how we can be better parents and guardians.

Today’s topic: 6 ways to help your child make friends at school.

Schoolwork should rank #1 for what kids focus on as students, but child development experts agree, that friendships are critical in helping kids improve skills like communication and sharing — and gain more emotional qualities like empathy and joy.

Some kids can make friends easily, but for many others… especially shy ones, it can be a tough task. In fact, shyness can be a barrier for kids to find a friend, which can grow into a bigger problem later in life when it comes to achieving certain goals. The good thing, according to child development experts, is that there are things you can do at home to help. Here are 6 ways to help your child make friends at school:

*Observe and understand how your child socializes. Find out what keeps them from engaging with others, to help you decide what skills you need to focus on in order to help them.

*Read and talk about friendship. There are many children’s books out there that focus on this.

*Nurture Social Skills, like teaching them how to say hi to someone. Then, gradually go from saying hi, to asking a question that can then lead to having a conversation.

*Let them see you show off your social skills. Doctors say this encourages kids to repeat those behaviors with others.

*Plan a playdate at home. Doctors with say, shy children feel more comfortable in their own house, so host a playdate and provide an activity that requires participation.

*Don’t ignore the problem. Doctors say, the longer you allow your kids to avoid social situations, the harder it’ll be to fix it later in life.