Help your child make friends at school

by Ramya Manoharan | Feb 10, 2017

It’s been more than a week since school started and children are still settling into the rhythm of full days of learning and organised activity. And, who can blame them! Adjusting to a new environment and people takes time even for the most resilient of us.

Take, for instance, the challenge of making friends. Children, whether they are in kinder, primary or secondary tend to worry about everything from finding a mate to eat lunch with to partnering with a buddy for school activities.

Learning to make friends is important

As parents and teachers we need to take this issue seriously, because learning the art of making friends in school will set the foundations for the social skills that our children will need to forge relationships with future partners, get along with colleagues and get ahead in their career.

Author, educator, parenting and resilience specialist Maggie Dent says, “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, including adolescents, to make friends?

Maggie offers five tips for parents to help children make friends:

  1. Having shared interests is a glue that bonds friendships. So 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.
  2. Have frequent catch ups, including sleepovers, after-school play dates, and weekend visits as children get older to allow friends to spend quality time together.
  3. Be mindful of keeping time on technology to a sensible level so friends can build their verbal, and cooperative play capacity.
  4. Endless hours of play helps children develop a ‘play code’, which includes learning how to take turns, and to win and lose with a degree of grace. This code—when developed early in life—can be an excellent protector against bullying.
  5. And when arguments happen, resist the urge to step into friendship issues and sort them out. Be quietly supportive and encourage and remind your child about empathy—how others may feel when we are mean and unkind.

Support your teenager

Friendship means a lot to a teen. At that age, nothing is as threatening in the social network as being ‘the loner’.

Here are Maggie’s top five tips for parents to help their teenager when they are struggling to make friends:

  1. Find something that ignites their inner spark. This may be something unexpected like growing vegies, fishing, baking, making short films, writing songs, painting, building or playing sport.
  2. Find some form of voluntary service for them to do. Helping others always makes an individual feel better about themselves.
  3. Make an appointment to see their year leader/facilitator, or a teacher your child likes, so they’re aware of your concerns.
  4. Keep an eye out for new students at school or in your community and make them feel welcome.
  5. Encourage your child to make friends with children of different ages.

And, remember to be welcoming and supportive of your child’s friends. Friendships can require a bit of an effort but it’s worthwhile as through friendship we can offer care and support to each other. This gives us the strength and courage to deal with the challenges that life has to offer.

 

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