Friendship is an important aspect of life. Our lives are enriched when we are in quality friendships. School friendships play such a critical role in how your child develops emotionally and socially. It affects how much they will enjoy their days at school, which is crucial seeing that they see their school friends 5 out of 7 days in a week. Quality, healthy friendships help boost a child’s self-esteem, self-confidence and gives them a sense of belonging. Studies have shown that kids who are in great friendships also perform better at school. They have better attitudes about going to school and learning when they are surrounded by great friends there.
So how do we help our children make quality friendships at school? It sometimes can be tricky for children to make friends, maintain their friendships, or navigate any friendship issues that may arise. Children need to learn friendship skills. These skills teach kids to develop, appreciate and nurture their friendships, and include, but not limited to:
- learning to cooperate
- taking turns and being fair
- listening to one other
- showing empathy and being sympathetic to each other’s feelings
- managing conflict
Take a look at our top 6 tips below to help your children make long lasting quality friendships:
1. Ask your child what makes a good friend
Helping your child identify the qualities of what a good friend should have will help them to recognize what types of friendships they should be searching for. Healthy friendships exhibit many great qualities such as trust, respect, kindness, honesty and consideration towards each other. Helping your child understand these qualities allows them to understand what a true friend should be like, and will assist them in “filtering out” people who do not exhibit these qualities. Discussing with your children these qualities also enables them to learn what they mean and will help them to reciprocate these qualities themselves.
2. Kids need to know that friends aren’t “one size fits all”
We all have different personalities and interests. Explain to your child that not all friendships are the same. Your child may be interested in playing tag with one friend, while another friend may be interested in sitting and chatting. It is important for your child to understand that everyone is different. A friend that isn’t interested in one particular activity does not mean that they are not worthy of their friendship. Being accepting of different friends’ interests and being open to trying new activities will help your child expand their circle of friends and develop friendships with different kinds of people.
3. Explain that friendships can change
As children grow and mature, interests and values can change. Your child may find that their friendship with their best friend starts to grow distant and they no longer share the same interests as they move through the school years. Let your child know that this is very common and normal. People may change as they grow older and it is normal for them to want to seek out new friends who share their new interests. It is also an opportunity for your child to meet new friends who are now a better fit for them too.
4. Participate in extra-curricular activities and organize opportunities to socialize
Give your child the opportunity to broaden their social circle with outside school activities and have a chance to meet other like-minded children. Children with similar interests connect more easily. It also allows children who may not have formed quality friendships at school to meet friends outside of school.
Similarly, parents can organize opportunities for school friends to socialize after school or on weekends (playdates). Even a 30-minute play at the school playground after school allows children to mingle and enhance their friendship. Playtime during school hours is limited, and with so many children around, it is not always easy to find their friends, let alone spend a decent amount of quality time with them.
5. Observe how your child socializes
It is a good idea to sit back and watch how your child interacts and behaves with their friends. Are they in fact quite bossy and controlling, or perhaps submissive and overly sensitive? Bossy, controlling children may be turning friendships away while submissive, overly sensitive children may find their friends too overbearing. They may not have the courage to speak up and will feel deflated that their friendship does not feel equal.
You can help your children practice the right behaviours at home. Role playing can be quite effective to help them learn different ways to interact with their friends across different scenarios. Your child may not notice their own behaviour around friends and gently letting them know at home often enlightens them and helps them to try new methods of conducting themselves around their friends.
6. Understand that conflict is normal but help them navigate difficult friendships
All friendships have disagreements at times, even the best of friends. It is your chance as a parent to talk with your children and help them gently navigate sensitive and hurt feelings. Discuss the issue and brainstorm some solutions together with your child. Talking it through helps your child to understand the problem from a different point of view. It may help them realize that the problem could be resolved easily or was not as big of an issue as once thought.
Overall, making friends is a skill. Children may have the basic skills to make friends but often they need some help in fine-tuning these skills. An adult can step in to help equip them with the right tools so that they can find the right friendships for them. Regular open conversations about your child’s friendships will help make it easier to navigate the path of making lifelong quality friendships.
* School photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com