Forming friendships are a very important part of growing up. Friendship or the lack there of, can really make of break a child’s experience of school and boost or damage her self esteem. I found as a parent, that I often wonder and worry about the amount and quality of my two daughters’ friendships. We all want our children to be popular and well-liked by other children and their parents – but what can we do to assist our children to become a good friend to others?
It is very important to realize that all children are unique and that their temperaments differ. Two children growing up in the same house might differ completely on the introversion-extroversion continuum. One might be a social butterfly, whilst the other one might always be hiding behind your legs at birthday parties. We should celebrate their differences and help both of them to learn the necessary social skills they will need in the future and find their own B.F.F.
What can you as a parent do?
- Teach your child what friendship entails. Children should know what is seen as friendly behavior and what not. Gossiping is unacceptable and hurtful behavior. In order to maintain friendships, they should continuously work at it. Point out to your child when you notice she is doing something nice for example sharing her lunch with her friend.
- Do not push your child to be popular. Some children will have many friends and others only few. At the end of the day it is important for your child to have someone they can confide in and trust completely.
- Encourage diversity in friendships. I think it is beneficial to children to have friends out of all walks of life. A child does not have to only have friends in their class at school, there should also be friends at extra-mural activities and other social groupings. You can use your child’s interests to help her meet other children with similar interests.
- Teach your child how to effectively express herself. When a child knows how to convey her feelings and thoughts effectively, she is able to be open and honest in her friendships. Point out to her how her attitude and even appearance can either promote social interaction or prevent it.
- Be a good listener. Listening to your child’s conversations gives you the opportunity to pick up when she is experiencing difficulties in her friendships.
- Model good friendship behavior. Our children are always watching us. When we have good friendships and maintain those friendships our children learn from us and copy our behavior. Hospitality is such an important skill to learn and we as parents should strive to always be hospitable – it is not only beneficial to our own friendships, but children learn how to make their friends feel at home and act in a friendly manner.
How can you help your shy child to form friendships?
- Use every opportunity to build friendships based on what your child finds interesting.
- Include brothers, sisters, cousins and other potential friends in your child’s daily routine.
- Organize playdates, but keep them small and short. Plan ahead and have activities which your child enjoys and is good at.
- Embrace the latest fad, whether it is silkworms or stickers. The fad is something that the children will have in common.
- Be a play date to your child. This gives you the chance to see how your child plays with other children and also gives you the opportunity to model correct behavior.
Good friendships will boost your child’s confidence and self-esteem, whilst a bad friendship will leave her feeling belittled and down. As parents we cannot choose our childrens’ friends or interfere with all the fights, but we have to monitor and guide our children for their own benefit.