Help your children make good friends – Maggie Dent

by User Not Found | Feb 29, 2016
Maggie Dent

Commonly known as Australia’s ‘queen of common sense’, Maggie Dent is an author, educator, parenting and resilience specialist with a particular interest in the early years and adolescence. Maggie is an advocate for the healthy, common-sense raising of children in order to strengthen families and communities.

Maggie is the author of seven books and a prolific creator of resources for parents, adolescents, teachers and early childhood educators. Maggie is also the proud mother of four sons and an enthusiastic and grateful grandmother.

Whether they are starting kindy or high school, we all want our children to make friends along the school journey. 

This is not simply because we want our children to enjoy the moments of joy and delight that friendships bring. Friendships build human connectedness, bondedness, and create life-affirming experiences that can help build emotional, social and psychological competence. 

Positive human relationships are also the most significant protective factor in resilience studies. This means when we face adversity, we are more physically and psychologically buoyant when we have family and friends around us. So how can we support our children and adolescents to make friends?

There are some general differences between most girl and boy friendships. Boys often use less verbal communication to build friendship bonds, so they actually need to spend more face-to-face time playing together doing physical stuff. 

Creating ‘adventure type’ opportunities for young lads that produce lots of dopamine—the brain chemical that makes us feel alive, engaged, and interested—helps build stronger connectors of affection. 

Boys are often more fragile around friendships than girls, and some of their aggressive behaviour may be due to the absence of a good friend. The reverse is also true.

Girls can tend to be more like butterflies—flitting around being friends with lots of kids. This is helpful because girls can also tend to be best friends today, worst enemies tomorrow and in a few days back to being besties! 

As parents you can help by not stepping into friendship issues and sorting them out. Be quietly supportive and encourage and remind your child about empathy—how others may feel when we are mean and unkind.

For children having shared interests is a huge ‘glue’ that bonds friendships—no matter what age. Make time to have shared afternoons, school picnics, camping trips, sports gatherings and celebrations with lots of familiar adults and kids to develop social awareness that nurtures good friendships. 

Having frequent catch ups including sleepovers, after-school play dates, and weekend visits as children get older allows friends to spend quality time together. Be mindful of keeping time on technology to a sensible level so friends can actually build their verbal, cooperative play capacity. 

Endless hours of play helps children develop a ‘play code’, which includes learning how to take turns, share, and to win and lose with a degree of grace. This code—when developed early in life—can be an excellent protector against bullying. 

Having children of different ages spend time together also helps younger children develop life skills that enhance getting on with others.

Friendship conflicts—much like sibling rivalry—are a normal part of life. Help children resolve them by making them aware of managing different wants, needs and big ugly emotions.

Friendships can require a bit of effort but it’s a worthwhile effort as through friendship we can offer care and support to each other. This gives us the strength and courage to deal with each and every challenge that life has to offer positively.

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