One of the crucial components of friendly relations between people is attachment, to which the famous psychologist J. Bowlby devoted his theory. Affection is a basic human need. We all need a person by our side from whom we can receive support, recognition, care. In early childhood, the need for attachment is satisfied by the parents, later each of us looks for a close friend, and in adulthood, attachment transcribes into a loving relationship.
You can’t “teach” your children to be friends in the literal sense of the word, but here are a few tips to help mom and dad help the child feel confident in building friendships.
1. Beware of the age
Family matters the most, a child needs secure attachments, and adult attention is crucially important. Playing alongside is preferred to playing with someone.
3-6 years old
At three years old, the child begins to share his toys for the first time and may try to help other children at the playground. At the same time, the first conflicts arise due to the inability to share appropriately, take turns or play together calmly.
6-9 years old
Friendships are usually based on shared interests, but they also start recognising that friends may not share the same interests. 6-9 children begin to understand that they need to include reciprocity to maintain friendships. Girls usually find “best friends,” and boys tend to stick to mini-groups. Friends fulfil practical needs, are helpful, and can be relied upon for assistance.
9-13 years old
At the age of 10, the need for empathy comes to the fore. A friend is someone with whom you are not afraid to share a secret, someone you can safely trust. Friendships are mainly gender split and based on similarity, shared experiences, and emotional support. Children recognise the thoughts and feelings of others and learn the importance of effective conflict management.
That’s the time when more time is spent with friends rather than family. Without an external adult mentor, the peer group can significantly influence decisions and the definition of personal identity. Friends differentiate – different friends for different purposes, and friendship arises between boys and girls, which becomes a kind of preparation for a romantic relationship.
2. Create opportunities
To make friends, you need to socialise and play with other children. Parents should specifically think about where the child can find a group of peers – this can be any place where children can freely play or do something fun or educational together in a safe space.
3. Talk about friendship
When talking with children, it is essential to touch on the topic of friendships. For example, it will be exciting for children to hear a story about parental childhood friends:
How and where you met.
What you loved to play.
What exciting adventures happened to you.
How you had arguments and made peace afterward.
Such stories by their example allow you to show your child how great and important it is to have friends! It is also beneficial to discuss friendship while reading children’s books, listening to songs, and watching cartoons.
4. Be a role model
Children copy their parents in many life aspects. Therefore, the only way we can teach our children to be friends is to be good friends to someone ourselves. Adults can show by their example how to treat friends, the ways to resolve conflicts, how important it is to compromise, and that it is not at all scary to be the first to start a conversation and get to know someone you like. In addition, several personal factors underlie friendship between children of different ages – the main ones among them, perhaps, are the child’s communication style and temperament.
5. Let them choose their friends
Of course, I want my child to be friends only with nice, polite, intelligent, and positive children. But life doesn’t always go the way we expect. Also, children’s logic is very different from that of an adult, and the parents’ expectations may not coincide at all with the wishes of the child. In this case, parents are better off keeping their distance, not giving unnecessary advice or criticising the child’s environment. Just make sure your child knows that they can, in any situation, turn to them and discuss the experience of his relationship, even if this experience is negative.
6. Be realistic about your expectations
Childhood friendships are full of ups and downs and the ins and outs. So, if your child is having some issues with his friends, try not to be too worried. Remember, making friends and being a good friend are skills that need to be learned. So, focus on helping your children build and practice their friendship skills. Eventually, everything will fall into place.
Also, be sure to keep the lines of communication open. Talking about how to be a good friend is just as important as learning how to make friends.
For more inspiration on how to become a more effective parent, please take a look at my other blog posts, or follow me on Instagram. I’m also available for personalised parent coaching, just use the contact form on my website if you’d like to know more.
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