Helping your child maintain friendships

When our children are young, playdates involve us choosing the time, place, and friends - often determined by which parents we are happiest to chat to over a coffee.

As children get older, we have much less say over who our children befriend and our role is to support them in developing resilience in navigating the inevitable trials and tribulations that arise. Friendship disputes between children are natural and to be expected. As children develop, they learn how to meet their own needs as well as navigate the needs of others. Whilst it is helpful to give them independence in this area, there are simple things that you can do to support them.

  1. Encourage your child to empathise – Through role play, discuss characters in books and television shows, engage in conversations about how others feel, how your child would feel in those situations and how they think the characters should behave.
  2. Encourage your child to be self-reflective – It is natural for us to focus on how we feel in a dispute. Whilst it is incredibly important to identify and acknowledge our own feelings, it is also hugely important to reflect on how we behave. Self-awareness is fundamental in the ability to maintain friendships. When reflecting on a friendship problem with your child, encourage them to identify not only how they felt, but how they acted and how that might have impacted their friend. This is an important skill that you can model. Show your child that you can be self-reflective too. Apologise when you lose your temper, explain that you are tired and therefore that is why you’re snappy. Show your child that you can take accountability for your behaviour too.
  3. Encourage your child to find their passion points – Not always, but often the best friendships are forged over a mutual interest. Encourage your child to pursue their hobbies, whether it is going to an after-school art club or spending time learning a new skill, anywhere they can interact and collaborate with others. Your children are likely to meet like-minded people in settings where they are happiest and most engaged.

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