When our kids head out into the world of school, they are instantly introduced into the ins and outs of friendship. I had wonderful friendships growing up and I’ve seen my kids develop wonderful friendships, as well. I’ve also seen the not-so-great kids of children choosing friends.
I can remember student teaching, before I had my own classroom, and realizing that kids can be really mean to their classmates. Gathering a group of kids that come from such different parents and homes can produce drama and hurt feelings. However, I was also able to see some very great & healthy friendships.
Now that I am a mom (to four kids), I want to encourage my kids to build the types of friendships that I had, the kinds of friendships that their dad had, and the kinds of friendships that we encourage in our home. It boils down to finding those that you want to be around, that bring out the best in you, but there is a little more to it than that…
Friendships take time to build.
Many times when my kids are struggling to connect with other kids, I remind them that it takes time to build good friendships. This can be especially hard for kids who have to move around a lot due to parent’s job, but you can encourage them to make the most of the friendships they do form. I can remember a girl moving to our school in 6th grade and how shy she was, but I was the complete opposite of shy, so I started talking to her. Within a few weeks, Erin and I became great friends. She moved away at the end of the year, but I was glad to have met her and become her friend.
Get Your Kids Involved in Activities
What is your child passionate about? Do they love soccer or dance? Invest time into what they love and encourage them to spend time working on their hobby. This is the perfect place for your child to make a good friend. When there is a shared interest, friendships can quickly take off from that foundation.
Remember, you don’t have to be good to play (no – seriously… I was AWFUL at sports, but I still played. I played softball, basketball, tennis, cheered, ran track, joined the ski club, etc…). You don’t have to be great, you just have to enjoy it. I played these things because I loved being with my friends. I remind our kids of that all the time, when I say “Listen, I played basketball for 7 years and I made ONE basket. Do you think my friends cared that I wasn’t great? No- I was part of a team and we were all friends. That’s what counts.”
Remind your kid about elevators.
Friends are like elevators, they can take you up or down. This is a good statement to remind your kids often. We all have had those friends who drag you down fast. Sometimes you may not even realize it at first. While you can still have friends who may be a little more difficult, encourage your kids to cultivate strong friendships with those who bring them up.
Be the friend you want.
This may sound cliche but it really is true. Talk as a family about the characteristics that you all are looking for in friends. Then focus on building these characteristics in your own lives. Talk about this at night when you are tucking your kids in (a perfect time to dive into a conversation like this).
Practice conflict resolution.
Learning how to handle and resolve conflict is a huge life skill that you can slowly work on in your family. Kids will go through various stages of conflict resolution, but you can slowly show what healthy conflict resolution looks like. Use family nights as a time to act out a conflict in a friendship and then practice your reactions. If your kids can learn this skill, they will be set for life when it comes to friendships.
Model Healthy Friendships
We all know that our kids are watching our every move. So let’s model healthy friendships to them. Do they constantly see you gossiping about your friends? Or in fights over little things? Take a step back and look at your own friendships, do they reflect what you want your kids to see? Try to bring up your past friendships, as well.
I OFTEN talk to our kids about the friends that I had growing up… “When I would go swimming with Sarah and Angie… ”
or “When Julia and I were in college, we always…”
Whatever it is, I try to relate it to myself and my friends, because I think that our kids can learn so much from our past and our example. Be a great one.
As you work on these various truths about friendship, remember that one of the best things you can do is keep a listening ear ready. When your child wants to talk about hurt feelings or struggles, be ready to drop everything to listen. Friendships take time to grow and cultivate, but healthy friendships can happen.
What tips would you add to this list?
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