“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
School friendships play an important role in children’s lives. Some are able to form long-lasting relationships with their peers whereas others struggle with it. But almost everyone has friendship-related troubles at some point. Since friendship is a critical part of life, it is important for children to learn how to make friends.
In this article, we will cover:
The book, Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends, written by Eileen Kennedy-Moore and Christine McLaughlin in 2017, lists skills that children need to form friendships. These skills come naturally to some children while some need to be coached. The skills are as follows:
Almost all social interactions are governed by unwritten rules and the success of these interactions depends on how smoothly these guidelines are being followed. A book written by Eileen Kennedy-Moore & Natalie Madorsky Elman, titled The Unwritten Rules of Friendship: Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends, teaches parents different ways of helping children find social comfort through friendships. Here are a few things parents can do to help their children make friends.
A teacher might have a different perspective on a child’s social skills. They might be able to pinpoint issues such as if the child struggles with group work even though he/she is well-liked by many or if the child gets along with everyone except one. A teacher is able to observe these things because they see the children almost every day. There is a possibility that the children act differently at home and in school. This will help parents find appropriate solutions to help the child.
Children need to socialise with others in an unstructured environment to make new friends since structured activities and lessons do not allow for adequate social skills practice. Parents can coordinate one-on-one play-time with potential friends. Parents can also enrol children in different hobby classes to encourage children to have friends outside of school. In a nutshell, the idea is to give children a chance to practice their social skills and make new friends.
It is important that parents go slow and stay consistent throughout this process to avoid overwhelming the children. Consistency drives behavioural change in children, so it is important to not give up after one ineffective activity. It takes time to learn how to get along and make friends with others. Things also change based on age and developmental stage of the parties involved. Parents need to remember that there are no quick fixes.
Children find it difficult to take a perspective. They are likely to have a blackand-white approach to thinking that reflects in their usage of words like always, never, everyone, nobody, etc. That is why, it is crucial that parents share their confidence while saying that things will get better after empathising with the children. Parents should celebrate their children’s smaller social successes instead of looking for more significant changes right away. It can also be helpful to explore emotions and reactions with children to help them increase their self-awareness.
Almost all social rules that govern friendships talk about listening to the other person, and understanding their perspective while being respectful. One of the best ways to teach this is to emphasise the importance of being kind. Parents can do that by helping children understand the impact of their words and actions and by not tolerating rudeness at home among siblings. Parents should also praise their children for their kind actions to strengthen that behaviour.
Seeing your child struggle to make friends can bring up painful feelings or experiences from the past. It is important to recognize those and take measures to ensure that your child feels supported and loved at home. Remember that social skills can be developed through practice and that your children will make lifelong friends along the way, even if they are struggling right now.
Have you faced this challenge before? How did you help your child make new friends? Let us know in the comments below or drop a note at [email protected].
“Me-kha-la!” That happens at least once when she introduces herself to new people. She’s the only ‘Mekhala’ she knows, and she takes a bit of pride in that. She is a quintessential introvert. Mekhala loves tea but cannot make a good cup of tea and often ends up having coffee. She claims that she takes all adjectives as complements unless specified otherwise. Mekhala is an organizational psychologist and psychometrician. She was a class teacher of 36 adorable girls for two years, grade 2 & 3, as a part of Teach For India Fellowship. And has worked as an independent consultant for a couple of years.
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