Posted on October 13, 2017
"A friend is one of the nicest things you can have & one of the best things you can be." ---Winnie the Pooh
A few weeks ago, Lori Abe (Character Education) and I did a presentation on the topic of Children's Friendships at the recent Parents' Coffee Hour. I would like to share a brief summary of what was covered for those who were unable to attend.
Merriam Webster defines friend as "a person who has a strong liking for and trust in another." Wikipedia defines friendship as "a mutual affection between people."
Friendship is an important, vast, and challenging aspect of interpersonal relationships that has been explored for many years and in many fields such as psychology, communications, and sociology. One thing for sure, we know that friendships are important at all stages of life! It is a deep human need...the soul's yearning to be loved and to love.
Children with friends enjoy school more. They feel happier at school and about themselves because friends are a source of help and support. Each day at school, I often meet with students who have friendship concerns. They feel sad or mad about how a friend has treated them and come in to talk with me about these concerns. We work together to help them find their own solutions.
There are different kinds of friendships, which include best friends, good friends, and casual friends. These develop and change as the child develops in age and cognitive development. Children often are unable to be or have true friends until they have achieved the cognitive maturity to consider the views and needs of others.
One of the biggest and most meaningful lessons on social dynamics is learned at the elementary school level. The modeling from caregivers (parents and teachers) help form the template for building lasting friendships throughout life!
How can parents help their child at home? Lori Abe and I did a role play during the coffee hour about a child being left out at recess, then going home to tell mom about it. First we role played what NOT to do!
1. DON'T look at your cellphone (or be distracted by doing something else) while your child is talking.
2. DON'T give advice and interrupt your child as he/she is talking.
Here are the main points of the strategy we shared that parents can DO.
1. Listen without judgment. Restate what happened using the child's words and reflect their feelings. "What I heard you say is that Johnny told you that he didn't want to play with you. It sounds like you felt mad when he told you that."
2. Have your child re-enact the situation with stuffed animals.
3. Ask how they would like to solve it.
4. Have your child practice the solution they'd like to try.
5. Ask your child to try out the solution and reassure your child that you will follow up with him/her in a few days to see how things are going. If it doesn't work out, it's ok, and we can find another solution. This empowers the child.
We encourage our students to be problem solvers and innovators.
Here is a link to an article "When Friendships Hurt." This gives a more in-depth explanation of the problem solving strategy shared above.
At the end of the coffee hour, parents had additional questions about how to help their own children deal with specific friendship issues. Each issue is unique to each child and to his/her feelings. Remember to listen without judgment, focus on what happened, and empower your child to find his/her solutions. Friendships are so important to children and learning how to navigate these will form the template for building lasting relationships throughout life!