Making friends isn’t a foregone conclusion. Some children seem to be effortlessly popular but others find it difficult to form and keep friends.
The most important thing to help a child learn is that friendships need to be balanced and mutually rewarding. A cool ‘friend’ who is only your friend if you follow his lead or do what he says isn’t a true friend and the earlier a child learns to give and receive true friendship, the better.
Helping children develop the self esteem to be ok in their own company liberates them from the sheep mentality. As a child’s sense of identity develops (from around the age of 6) his friendships will help to define him and become increasingly important.
It’s not a bad thing for a child to be outside of the ‘cool crowd’ but most children worry about friendships at some point in their life and there are things parents can do to help children develop and nurture friendships that will be beneficial throughout their lives.
Top tips for helping children make and keep friends:
- Model healthy friendships. Show your children that you value your own friends and talk to your children about how they help you enjoy life.
- Take an interest in your children’s friends, try and get to know their parents and find common ground or interests that means children can spend time together outside of school or nursery.
- Give your child space to play with their friends without you being too close, e.g. at the park
- Invite your child’s friends back to your house after school, even if just for an hour or so. This is important as it lets your child know you accept their friends. It’s even more important to do it with friends that you have concerns over – nothing fosters a friendship like parental disapproval so make sure your child feels free to choose his own friends, and that (as long as certain house rules are followed) his friends are welcome in your home.
- Talk to your child about what it means to be a good friend. Use books or television programmes as examples of when people act well and badly as friends. Explain to your child that you need to be a good friend if you want to have good friends.