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Helping your child make friends

From the moment your baby is born, your little bundle of joy will be developing social skills that will help in forming friendships throughout life, and you can help your child along the way. Understanding a child's social milestones will help you to understand what to expect from your child and his friendships as he grows up.

How will my baby's social skills develop in the first year?

In the first year of your baby's life, his social skills will be limited but there will be signs of development. From the moment of birth, your baby should respond to being touched or held, and he will enjoy your smiles and cooing noises. By the first month, you may notice your baby beginning to mimic your gestures and make faces. Your baby will become more observant of movements around him by two months old.

At three months old the first 'conversations' may start, with your baby smiling at you and making gurgling noises. Of course, you'll want to reply to your baby, taking turns in the conversation. Around this time your baby should also enjoy games that you can play face to face, such as peekaboo. While parents are still the most important people in a baby's life, at four months old your baby should start to respond to other people with happy squeals.

Once your baby becomes more mobile, at about seven months, he may take an interest in other babies, though he won't play with them. At this age children tend to play parallel, or side by side. You may notice about this time that your baby is becoming uncomfortable with unfamiliar people and anxious if you're out of view. This is because your baby is starting to realise that he is an independent person, not part of you. This is known as separation anxiety and is common between seven and 12 months, so while you might think your baby is taking a step backwards, it's actually a sign that your baby is developing self-awareness.

In a newborn's first few months, spend as much time with your baby as you can, especially making face-to-face contact, chatting and playing games, and invite relatives and friends to visit. If your child is uncomfortable with a stranger, have that person talk or play with your child as you hold him, then let the other person hold your child while you stay nearby. The next stage is to leave for just a few minutes, but return if your baby starts crying. Build up the length of time you're away, and eventually your child should be comfortable with other people.

If you are concerned because your child isn't responding to you or because he doesn't respond to others, contact your health visitor or GP.

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