What Kids Need: Friendship-Making Skills

The Search Institute lists Friendship-Making Skills as Asset #27 on their list of the 40 Developmental Assets for Youth.  The ability to make and keep friends is another lifelong skill that serves us all our life.  When we are not encouraged to make friends or to have friends over to our house, then that skill is undeveloped.   When left undeveloped, the ability to communicate and start conversations is also latent.  This skill is one that as adults we use extensively throughout our lives.

I challenge parents to role-play conversations with kids who are shy and help them initiate discussions with others.  Give them little assignments to do, such as, saying “approach that community member, who is a friend of mine, and ask him how she likes her job and how she got started.”  These situational assignments will help kids get over their hesitations and lack of self-confidence.  By assisting kids with confidence, we teach them that they matter, that their thoughts, ideas, and preferences matter.  We help them to learn to approach others professionally and interact with them at a higher level.

Finally, I would like to encourage parents to help kids with diversity in their friendships.  This can include different ages, ethnicity, and faiths.  Diversity may also take some coaching, but the key is to talk with diverse friends about the same things you would talk with another friend of your same ethnicity, age, or faith.  Help them to relax and learn to hold a conversation with someone older.  I am always impressed on the television newscasts when a young person is interviewed about a topic, and they can articulate clearly their thoughts spontaneously.  I am sure that I lacked those skills when I was a child and learning it as an adult took some personal effort and courage on my part.  Still today, there is the default behavior for me that can lean towards passivity.

Help kids to make friends by finding different situations and mixes of people for them to approach.  Encourage your kids to invite kids over to your home and help them to interact in an environment in which they feel safe.

Yours for Better Parenting,