Tuesday, October 21, 2014

3 Steps to Help Your Child Make Friends

It is a painful experience to watch your child struggle with friendships.  When your child is hurting you experience the pain in a most excruciating way, and often you feel powerless to respond.  You want to search out the child responsible for causing your child's pain or loneliness and "get even" or "teach that kid a lesson".  But trust me when I say, you only are seeing one side of the story.  Every situation has more than one side.  So, as difficult as this advice is to follow...take a deep breath and let it go.  Then refocus your efforts on the here and now.  What can you do to help your child facilitate lasting and quality friendships?  Sit down with your child and imagine a trip to the idea store...here is what I mean...

1.  Speak to your child about what qualities make up a good friend.  Brainstorm the type of friend your child hopes to find.  Is it someone who shares certain interests? Or someone who has qualities that would compliment your child?  Maybe an outgoing child because your child is shy, or an athletic child because your child loves to play sports.  Talk about morals and values, does your child want a friend that can be trusted and will be loyal?  Discuss why these qualities would be valuable to a lasting friendship.

2.  Discuss what your child might do to find that type of friend.  Does someone already come to mind?  You can encourage your child to reach out to a new person who they think might make a good friend.  Suggest that they sit by someone new at lunch or look for new friendships on the playground.  Maybe your child needs to join a club or activity that would expose him/her to new children who share his/her interests.

3.  Agree on a goal your child can work towards in the coming weeks.  Perhaps the challenge is to invite someone new over for a play date, or play with a new child during recess.    Challenge your child to reach out to children who don't already have many friends, and be the one to help other children who feel excluded.

Make it clear to your child that their friendships are their choice to make.  You are not willing or able to make friends for them.  But you are available to love and support them at all times.  Empower them with your confidence that they will find good and true friends.  Urge them to be patient with themselves and others.  Solid friendships take time to build.  And remember, all children really need is one true friend.  It is wonderful to be blessed with more, but as long as your child has a friend, they have the relationship that is so important to their development.  And if they don't have that one friend right now, take a trip together to "the idea store" and gather some ideas for how to find that special friend who is waiting to meet and make friends with your child.

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