Guide Your Kids to Choose the Right Friends & Be a Good Friend Themselves

We can’t chose our kids friends, but we can teach them how to choose
good friends and the right friends. Showing children what makes a good
friend, how to choose their own friends and be a good friend to others.
Friendship lessons on communication, loyalty, support and handling
disagreements without hurt feelings.


Children
start building meaningful friendships around the age of 4-5. These
relationships can be with classmates, neighborhood kids, cousins and
connections through the parent’s friendships. As parents, we want to
ensure our children know how to choose the right friends.

Before
age four, children practice playing side-by-side where they are
involved in their own games and exploration to satisfy their own
desires, separate from one-another. After the age of four, children are
more in-tune with working cohesively with a friend, know how to
compromise and have better awareness (and empathy) of other’s feelings.

Most
often, the start to friendships is nurtured through a parent
involvement, demonstrated through your own relationships with your
friends. You are showing your children how to communicate with others,
share, encourage and qualities to look for in friends.

Guidance from adults will help relationships flourish and have meaning, but can also help kids weed out no-so-good friendships.

Gently
steer your children with suggestions of how friends act towards one
another, encourage them to be “includers” and not excluders when it
comes to larger groups playing together, and also how to respond to peer
pressure and bad behavior.

Model the type of friendships you
want your children to have; how you speak to people, how they treat you
and how they make you feel. Kids are always watching and this is another
prime example of the early guidance they lean on you for.

Loyal friendships are built upon teaching your child to be a good friend and the traits necessary to maintain friendships.

COMMON INTERESTS TIE FRIENDS TOGETHER

It
may be that kids are on a soccer team together, in the same class, live
down the street from one another or are simply the same age.

There
is one common thread that links people together, but on top of that,
friendships require more depth. Lasting friendships are built upon finding many shared interests and enjoying time spent together doing them!

The
commonality between your child and their friend is what will draw them
together but finding shared interests like creating science projects,
scrapbooking, making up songs and dance routines, playing basketball,
creating jewelry or riding bikes will be what keeps them joined at the
hip.

Help your children and their friends explore their interests
and find things in common they enjoy doing together and help to foster
their interest by supporting them and encouraging the extra activity.

Children
will have a handful of friends that they have unique shared interests
with each individual. Julie and Sarah like to take dance classes and
make up their own routines together, but Sarah likes to play with her
neighbor Emily and do crafts together.

Friends don’t have to fill
every box our kids have available to check, some friends will fill a
couple, and others will fill different ones.

Guide Your Kids to Choose the Right Friends & Be a Good Friend Themselves

TRUE FRIENDS OFFER SUPPORT IN GOOD TIMES & BAD

Friends offer support to each other when they are sad, upset, hurt, scared, happy, excited and to celebrate accomplishments.

A
good friend will offer their support, encouragement, kindness and of
course, be a cheerleader because the person means a lot to them.

When
your child’s friend is struggling or has had something exciting happen,
encourage your child to celebrate their success or help them as much as
they can through the tough time.

Help your child see over the green envy monster – jealousy
– during any big wins the other friend has had like a team victory,
being elected to school council, etc. and show your son or daughter how
to be excited for the other person.

If this means that Mom is the
person who picks up the phone to dial your child’s best friend’s Mom
just to say “congratulations,” then do it.

FRIENDS DON’T GOSSIP

Friendships
that stand the test of time are built on loyalty, kindness and honesty,
and this means that under no circumstances, should friend talk badly
about one another.

It’s Ok for them to vent to their parents
about something that they’re frustrated with or need help to understand,
but especially for school-age children when cliques begins to form and peer pressure begins, talking badly about friends is a no-no and will only hurt the other person.

Practice role-playing
at home. How would you daughter feel if her best-friend began to make
fun of her clothing or the way she talks to the other girls at school?
It’s hard being on the receiving end of gossip and role-playing is a
wonderful empathy builder for children to remember what it “feels like”
to be in someone else’s shoes.

Also equally important, if your
child hears others talking badly about her friend, encourage her to
stand up for her friend. Being a good friend means being loyal and
sticking up for one another in hard situations.

When your
children are learning to choose the right friends, a person that talks
badly about another person will not make a good friend. A bad friend
might not talk nicely, but also won’t listen, isn’t considerate of
other’s feelings and might ignore or make fun of others.

PROMOTE PERSONAL CONNECTIONS 

One
of the best parts of connecting with another person, is that you are
able to share personal feelings, experiences, and even treasured
treasures with, without feeling judged.

Always encourage your
child to listen with an open heart to what their friend needs to say.
Family connections can run deep and Mom or Dad may be the person that
your child likes to share with for now, but as they get older, they want
to be relatable to their friends and that includes sharing their
deepest information.

Young children begin the sharing process
with their connections. Hey, we all have to start somewhere! Encourage
sharing when they are comfortable with it, but don’t force any behavior
they are not ready for.

As kids grow and get older, listen and gently guide the conversations you
have to personal topics so they understand how to open up and what sort
of questions are appropriate to ask to get to know another person.

HELP KIDS CORRECTLY HANDLE DISAGREEMENTS

It’s
natural for friends to get into occasional disagreements and when they
butt heads with one another, just like they do with their parents and
especially with siblings, it’s important to come together and communicate.

A confident child will
be more open to accepting responsibility for their part of the
disagreement, be willing to apologize and move forward – all important
skills to sing a good friend.

A parent may be needed to gently
moderate a conversation about what led to the disagreement and help both
kids voice their sides of the issue, before they can find a common
resolution that makes everyone happy.

ENCOURAGE INCLUSION AMONG FRIENDS

It’s
fun to be around new people and join a new group of friends, but don’t
forget to remind your children that its important to be includers. Make sure they don’t leave “old” friends behind when new friends enter the picture.

When
your kids make new friends, let them know that discarding old friends
is not good standards. There are always going to be the friends who have
grown apart and are heading into different directions, but if this
isn’t the case, encourage inclusions among the new and old friends.

Suggest ways old friends can participate with the new group to help the meshing of groups.

Popularity
is a passing dad, and is not usually created with deep bonds between
true friends. Having a true friendship will last longer, and be more
meaningful than being labeled a “popular girl” for the five-minutes it
lasts.

PARENTS: WAYS TO HELP KIDS STRIKE UP FRIENDSHIPS

  • Point out some of your child’s strengths and see if any of their strengths and interests intersect with another friend.
  • Practice a simple greeting / introduction for your child to use on the playground, etc.
  • Create a list of simple games or jokes your kids can share with other kids
  • What
    is your child interested in? Consider enrolling them in a new class or
    sport where they can meet alike children who share these interests.
  • At
    school, ask teachers about positive friendships that are forming (or be
    aware of unhealthy ones which is equally important), and offer to get
    the kids together outside of school.

Children will always learn the most from their parents.
If they observe you surrounding yourself with positive, supportive
people who love you, then your children will learn to invest their own
energy into friendships like the ones they know.

If you’re an introvert like me,
then making friends is more out of your comfort zone, but you probably
have a couple solid relationships and can talk more to your children
about the qualities to look for when they’re forming relationships, and
the ones to stay away from. 

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