What kind of friends do you want for your school age child? That simple question is complex for many families. The topic brings up memories of parent’s school friendships and feelings about their children’s friendships.
Pride or Problems? If the child is well-liked, parents burst with pride. If their child is unpopular, they cringe and hope no one notices, especially their child. But the child does know if he or she is popular or not.
Benefits. Children with friendships have a greater sense of well-being, a better self-esteem, have more fun at school, and have fewer problems as adults. (1) In this blog we’ll look at some simple ways parent’s can help their school age children develop healthy friendships as we begin the new year.
Your Child’s Social Style. Developing a loving, accepting, and respectful relationship with your school age child provides the foundation for helping your child build friendships. (2) This means respecting your child’s social style. (1) Some children make many friends easily while others make friends more slowly and may only need a few good friends. Some are social butterflies while others are more quiet and reserved. Avoid pressuring your child to make friends at your pace and style.
Child’s Temperament. Consider your child’s God-given temperament, level of activity, and stress. (3) Some children need quiet time, a chance to slow down, be alone, or even relax rather than spending all their free time with friends. Other children like being on the go with friends and activities.
Eyes are Watching. Remember that your child is always observing you. Model appropriate social behaviors, empathy with others, and demonstrate reciprocity. (1, 4) Reciprocity for school age children means what they do for each other.1 Friendship is a two-way relationship. Keep in mind a New Testament Bible verse, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (5)
Variety of Friendships. Demonstrate kindness by keeping a wide variety of friendships, such as with the elderly, shut-ins, the homeless, and those living in poverty. Your children will learn that a wide variety of friendships are valuable.
Group Status. It is also helpful for parents to know their child’s friends and where their child stands in the group. (4) “Your child doesn’t need you to manage his social life, but he does need you to provide a steady, supportive environment for his social experimentation.”(4) If your child needs help in making better friendships, provide direction and support. For example, maybe your child needs to learn to take turns or ask others to join in play. “…research shows that children who were better adjusted socially had parents who were more involved in their children’s social activities.” (1)
Don’t Go “Back to School.” And lastly, in helping your child make friends, avoid going back to school yourself. (4) This may sound like, “When I was your age, I…” or stories of regret. Every adult has painful memories of childhood friendships. Friendship challenges are a natural part of our children’s social development.
Separate Self From Child. Try and separate your feelings and needs from your child’s. “Children can experience undue anxiety when parents pressure them to behave in ways that meet parents’ needs more than their own.” (3) While making friends is not always a smooth road, these ideas for helping your school age child make friends can make the road less bumpy.
1. Do Kids Need Friends? Anita Gurian, Ph.D. and Alice Pope, Ph.D., NYU Child Study Center, www.education.com › … › Social Emotional Development › Friendships. Updated July 9, 2010. Accessed 10/17/2013.
2. The Importance of Friendship for School-Age Children, Millie Ferrer-Chancy & Anne Fugate, University of Florida IFAS Extension, ©2002. Reviewed 2007. edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy54. Accessed 10/17/2013.
3. Friendships: Fostering Children’s Friendship in School Age Children, www.families-first.org/…/tips.cfm?…Friendships…Fostering%20Children‘… Accessed 10/17/2013.
4. Let’s Be Friends: Help your child’s friendships flourish — even in the face of difficulty. Scholastic Parent, www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/stages…/lets-be-friends. Accessed 10/17/2013.
5. Ephesians 4:32. New American Standard Bible (NASB). www.biblegateway.com/versions/New-American-Standard-Bible-NASB/. Accessed 12/23/2013.