The Art of Friendship: The Key to Social Well-Being
Let's face it, as parents we all want our children to have friends. We view the ability to have friends as the capacity of being able to connect and interact with others. From this perspective, as parents we also worry if our child doesn't have friends. We question the reasons for it whether it is their shyness, or the opposite, their bossiness. Either way, the ability to be a friend and have friends is an important issue that we want our children to master.
For most children, their entry into the world of friendships begins in some type of setting outside the home. In playgroups and preschools, young children learn to sit in a circle among their school friends to be taught how to listen and communicate with one another. Their forays on the playground provide a training ground for them to acquire skills to share, play, and interact with children outside of their own family. Beginning young and continuing through adulthood, the art of friendship becomes of utmost importance, both socially and emotionally, in life.
Strategies for Strengthening Friendship Bonding Skills
Since making friends is such a large part of children's lives, parents can help guide them to deal more effectively with friendships. Here are some strategies that parents can use to help strengthen friendship bonding skills:
- Talk about the merits of a friend: Sounds simple, but for many children, especially young ones, define what a good friend is. Talk about the key qualities of friendship such as loyalty, acceptance, understanding, being giving, and generous. Ask them to name a friend and tell you what they like about them and what they like to do together. Highlight the positive aspects and connect some of the core friendship values with their answer.
- Discuss sharing rules: Especially for younger children, they need to understand the basic rules for sharing with others. Sharing toys can sometimes be problematic, so before a playmate arrives, find out which special toys the child would not rather share and put them away. Explain the rest of the toys will need to be shared and explain that is what friends do with one another. The concept of sharing leads to learning how to compromise, a key aspect in good relationship skills.
- Work together on Getting Along Principles: Discuss with your kids the basic rules for getting along with friends and together write them down on a piece of paper. Some of these principles could be: not using fists when you are angry but words, no name calling and treating others with respect, listening to each others ideas, taking turns, and sharing. Place the paper in a well-viewed area for reminder.
- Encourage opportunities and ways for children to be with other kids: Recent research shows that children who are more socially adjusted had parents that were more involved in their children's social activities. For children to learn friendship skills they need opportunities to be with other peers especially if they are shy or hesitant about peer interactions. Offer your home as a place for them to get together, accompany them on outings, or spend time with another family that have similar age children. Also, make suggestions for having them invite friends to family outings such as " You can invite a friend to go to the movies with us".
- If friend disagreements arise, be the consultant only: Disagreements among friends will often happen, but children need to learn how to work out their problems together. By being a "consultant", get them to talk through the dilemma and think together how they could handle the situation in a positive manner. By not taking sides, you being the mediator, they get to understand how to listen to other points of view and resolve issues as well as express feelings and see reactions.
Ask Dr. Andie
Questions can be submitted through the website and if possible, will be answered either in the Q&A section or in the Power2Relate Newsletter.
What do you do when you don't like your child's choice of friends? I have a 12 year-old daughter who has a friend that I feel is a bad influence on her. Her friend has a punk haircut and wears strange clothes. I'm afraid if I banned her from this particular friend, she'll only want to spend more time with her.
Your question is one that I often get so it indicates that it is a concern among many parents. I agree with you about banning the friend that will only lead to more involvement. It's like making the forbidden fruit be more appealing and we don't want that to happen. Also, many of these "undesirable" friendships are short-lived. Allowing these to run its course will often be more effective than actively trying to stop it. A more effective approach, is to discuss your concerns with your daughter and find out why she chooses this certain friend. It helps you understand what the attraction is. As parents, we also have to make an effort to get to know our child's friends before we pass judgments. Sometimes appearances aren't always what they seem. A punk haircut doesn't always mean that she doesn't have some positive qualities about her.
However, if the friend is someone that has engaged in antisocial or dangerous or unacceptable acts, then I believe that as a parent, you have the responsibility to discourage and stop this association.
This month, Dr. Andie appeared on the NBC affiliate Philadelphia !10! Show talking with host Bill Henly about mending friendships. The excerpt will appear under "media - Television" in the www.drandie.com website. Also, tune into Walking on Air with Betsy and Sal www.walkingonair.org/schedule.htm to listen every Tuesday for On the Couch with for a session with Dr. Andie. Topic this month is on friendships and all aspects of them.
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