Does your child struggle to make friends? We recognize the role parental involvement plays in helping your child learn about friendship and how to be a good friend. You want the best for your children. Teaching them to be good friends might seem like a daunting task, but it can be as simple as modeling for your children how you treat your friends.
Children are quick to mimic your actions, so invite a friend to role-play what happens in a typical friendly conversation, such as being sympathetic, friendly, caring, concerned, and excited. When your child joins in the conversation, allow him or her to speak rather than immediately shutting down those impressionable thoughts. Be sure to show how friends do not interrupt conversations to say something, though.
Friendships can begin at very young ages. Toddlers may tend to play next to each other without reacting, but this parallel play is the basis of friendship. When toddlers begin interacting, friendship is based on trust and caring. One of the first signs of friendship is sharing. Reward your toddler with enthusiastic praise whenever sharing is exhibited. Small children are generally quite tolerant of another child’s antics, but you’ll want to separate children who begin to show signs of aggression such as hitting or biting.
Young friendships develop as schoolmates share common classes, sports, or game enthusiasm. Time on a playground can involve several known friends and create new ones. While some friendships are ongoing, others may pass quickly.
Don’t press your child into friendships simply because you are friends with that child’s parents. Let your child lead the charge; you might be surprised to see a friendship develop from a source you least anticipated.
Keep in mind also that some friendships are only for one scenario: a playground friend, a pool friend, a Cub Scout friend, and so on. Your child may be shy and closed off if this child is met outside the normal setting. At this age, most friendships are based on playing rather than talking.
Friendships will change as your child matures. Sometimes friendships fade because your child develops more or less quickly than his classmates. Have your child join clubs or teams outside the traditional academic setting to instigate friendships with children of different ages who have a common interest.
Remember, just because you were a star athlete in school does not necessarily mean your child will follow in your footsteps. Help foster new friendships beyond the playing field by inviting the entire team to some activities rather than a few individuals.
Friendships in this age group forward tend to focus more on conversation than playing.
Middle school and beyond
Cliques are abundant by this age but are often not healthy for your child since they exclude many specific students. Use modeling frequently at this stage, emphasizing empathy and acceptance. If you know your child has been involved in negative behaviors toward others while involved in a clique, make your child apologize in person to the person transgressed.
This age also develops strong online friends; monitor computer usage to ensure the friendships your child is creating are age appropriate. Online friendships can give your child broader borders since friends are not bound by how far you can drive. Encourage safe friendships with children in other countries.
Your main goal is to focus on your child’s well-being. Know the difference between loneliness and being alone. When your child is lonely, start an open discussion on what is going on at school and think through ways to help your child thrive.
Parental involvement is key to healthy child development and your child’s ability to make lasting friendships. Call Lake Forrest Prep at 407 331-5144 to talk to one of our staff members about how we work with parents to help all our students be the best they can be.