When your child opens the door and tells you he is meeting John from school, you cannot really know who John is, who his family are, if he has values or if he is a good kid like yours. What you can know though is if you have taught your child to value friendship and to stand up for himself when he is not being treated respectfully. Friendship is one of the most important things in a person’s life, but it can also be extremely challenging, if it doesn’t work both ways.
Friendships, particularly in adolescence are important, because children want to break away from their parents and they look for the acceptance and support of their friends. However, most of the times problems begin with shy children who do not dare to make new friends at school. Shy, introverted children are less likely to develop social skills and more difficult to be taught social behavior or use their communication skills effectively. Even if you do not admit that your kid has a problem, the truth of the matter is that your child lacks the confidence to approach new people and become friends with other children.
Lack of confidence is often expressed in many activities such as homework, sports, extracurricular activities and so on. Shy children are often quite and do not open up not even to their parents. Therefore, if you notice that your child avoids sharing his thoughts even with you, take this as an alarming sign. You need to step up and help your child make good friends and learn to be at ease with herself.
Here are some tips on how to deal with your child’s friendship challenges:
a) Explain what constitutes a healthy friendship
Many children do not know what a healthy friendship is. This explains why they get involved with people who do not add value to the relationship and they often end up being hurt, mistreated and emotionally abused. You should sit down with your child and explain to her what makes a healthy friendship and a good friend. Teach your child how to be compassionate, honest and considerate in her friendships and how to love her friends and be there for them. Make her understand the meaning of forgiveness and how she should learn to forgive without forgetting, so that she doesn’t poison herself and move on with her life.
b) Teach your child the meaning of trust
Trust is very important in any type of relationship, but it becomes fundamental in friendships. If we cannot trust our best friend, it feels like we cannot trust anyone. Often, a broken friendship hurts more than a broken love relationship. Teach your children how to trust a friend. Let them share a little secret with their best friend and test if this person will keep it safe. Teach them how important is to be able to trust and develop healthy relationships that can continue to grow stronger.
c) Make your child think how to be a better friend
To make your child understand what makes a good friend, put her in the shoes of a mistreated person and tell her to treat her friends the way she wants to be treated. Before she gets together with her friends remind her to behave and treat people as she would normally do. Because kids have the tendency to imitate what other kids do and lack the criteria to evaluate if what they are doing is good or bad, they may misbehave toward their friends at any given point. Therefore, if you sit down with your child and explain to her that she has to do the right thing every time you are not around, she is less likely to misbehave and mistreat her friends. Make your child think how she can be a better friend.
d) Be a good role model
The best way to teach your child about friendship is by example. Children look up to their parents and if you are a good role model you will inspire and teach your kids how to be good friends, but also how to be good members of the society. If they see you lie, they will lie too. If they see you yell, they will yell too. If they see you being rude, they will be rude too. Children are like sponges and considering their lack of social skills at a younger age, they are highly likely to end up being, not only bad friends, but also bad people. Social skills are learned and you are the one to teach them to your child. Therefore, you need to be a good role model, a good friend to your friends, so that your children see in practice what you try to teach them with words.
Overall, friendships are very important and as children grow older, they become essential. It is equally important that you stay focused in helping your child establish healthy relationships. Be there for your child; ask questions about what she likes to do with her friends; what she likes about her friends; what she doesn’t like and so on. Little by little, you will get to a point that you child will share with you and will be able to guide her on how to become a good friend, but also how to avoid getting hurt by her friends.