The Search Institute (search-institute.org) talks about the importance of kids knowing how to make and keep friends. Do your kids have that skill? Are they good at forming positive relationships? To what types of friends are they naturally drawn? I encourage parents and grandparents to ask themselves these questions regarding the young people in their lives. As a stepfather, I helped my wife raise two boys. When I came on the scene, neither of them was particularly good at choosing friends that formed a positive relationship. I worked with both of them; however, because they were a bit older when I came on the scene (10 & 12 yrs.), with habits already formed, it was a bit more complicated. I accepted the challenge and was successful with the younger ones. His older brother was a challenge because the relationships he formed tended to be negative ones with kids who had habits that could get him into trouble.
Forming positive relationships with others can tell you quite a bit about your child. Perhaps they are good at picking great friends, kids who are a very positive influence. But what do you do if that is not the case? Here are a few ideas that may help.
- Model the importance of great friends by including your kids in your friendships. When you get together with your friends, have your kids positively see that interaction between you and others. Model conversations with their friends and encourage them to participate.
- If your kids are having difficulty forming friendships, find out why. Do they need help approaching people they don’t know? Do they need help initiating a conversation? You can role-play these things with your child at home, helping them to practice meeting others. Help them start conversations and encourage them to meet others in situations where you can standoff in the distance, such as a sporting event, concert, or school assembly. Coach them from what you can see and encourage them to keep trying.
- Some kids prefer older kids or even adults. They may have difficulty fitting in with kids their age. It might be that they are emotionally immature for their age or more mature in their thinking than their friends. Their confidence will develop as kids grow and develop and often grow out of it in a few years.
- Help your kids with diversity in friendships. Talk with them about diversity and model it for them in your relationships. Help them to understand the importance of including everyone positively in their life. Diversity can consist of different age groups, cultural groups, ethnic origins, and faiths.
- Encourage your kids to invite their friends over to your home. Have an inviting area where they can call their own in your home and provide some snacks for them. Make your home their hang-out place for their friends. It will help you as a parent learn more about their friends and feel more comfortable when they leave to do other things outside the home.
- Help your kids to think of things to do that are fun. Make a list for them and help them gather the items needed for various activities.
These six approaches are a natural and most helpful approach to help the young people in your life build some social, communication, and self-confidence/self-esteem skills. The best is to have parents role-model appropriate fun with their friends with their young people around. If you take some time to work at this with your young people, you will notice it take off and become a real asset for their future.
I am particularly fond of this article on Making Good Friends at Making Good Friends – HelpGuide.org
I have a related article on friends from my What Kids Need series at What Kids Need: Friendship-Making Skills – Dr. Rich Patterson (pattersonphd.com)
Yours for Better Parenting,