Friendships – Its importance to children and how to encourage them
You may be a loving parent but your child still needs to make friends and have and maintain positive relationships with other children.
A friend is someone your child enjoys being with and feels safe with, besides their own family. Research has shown that as children get older they may sometimes find it comfortable sharing things with their friends rather than their family. Younger children, however may share more with family than friends.
Importance of friendship
Friendship is very crucial for a child’s development as it fosters positive self-image and a sense of being connected and accepted. Evidence has shown that a child who enjoys good and stable friendships is more likely to be happier and experiences not only social success but academic achievements.
Where will your child meet new friends
Children make friends very easily and they can meet new friends at many places including There are many places where a young person can meet new friends including schools, sporting clubs, libraries or through after school activities your child might be doing.
As a parent, you can help your child to participate in healthy social activities whenever possible. You must draw on the social network available to your child and encourage activities like playdates, sleepovers (when they are ready and you are comfortable with it) This will help your child learn how to socialise even if it is in the comfort of their own home.
What stops a child in making Friends
There are many children who find it hard to make friends or to build friendships. There are several factors that can impact on your child making friends.
Good Communication skills help children engage with others. Children who find it difficult communicating find it difficult to initiate and grow friendships.
As a parent, you need to make sure that you encourage the development of good communication skills in your child.
You can do this by modelling to your young person how to constructively contribute to a conversation. If they need to leave the conversation, explain to them that it’s best to wait for a gap in the conversation before saying “Excuse me, I have to go.” or “Nice talking to you. See you later.”
The way you react and deal with your child’s shyness can have a deep impact on their confidence in social settings.
- Try not to push your child to behave confidently as this may make them anxious.
- Give them time, and if they don’t feel up to it, let them be.
- Encourage your child to join activities and sports that they enjoy – that way, they would meet other people with similar interests.
- Try to share your own childhood stories about feeling shy – and how you coped. Children love hearing stories about their parent’s lives, and they may take comfort in the knowledge that they are not different.
Some children suffer from low self-esteem and that can act as an hindrance to them making friends.
Low self-esteem may also be a sign of bullying, as children who are bullied often feel insecure about themselves and desperately want to be liked by others.
If your child suffers from low self-esteem then
- Encourage the child to value their own individuality.
- Be generous in praising your child when it is appropriate to do so.
- When required, provide feedback about strategies and/or behaviours they may have used to achieve a more positive outcome in a social situation.
- If your child is being bullied then do something about it as soon as possible. child is being bullied, try to respond appropriately as soon as possible.
Some children may feel reluctant and find it difficult to participate in activities without the involvement/ approval of their parents. T=you should give plenty of opportunities for your child to socialise with others – initially, they may need lots of support and encouragement.
You should also encourage them to make independent decisions in such social situations.
Attitude of the child
Attitude plays a very important role in not just making friendships but keeping them as well. Some children although may want to have lots of friends, may not seem approachable and friendly to others.
- Model positive social skills to the child e.g. how to greet others; how to welcome visitors, etc.
- Encourage a young person to always look at the positive side of things and be ready to accept constructive criticisms from others.
- Tell the young person not to talk about other people’s issues when in the company of others. ‘Gossiping’ turns prospective friends away.
- Show the young person how to be kind and how to share with others. It is also important for a young person not to compromise their beliefs and standards for the sake of trying to ‘fit-in’.
All children are different so their friendship patterns will be different from their parents or their siblings. Some children may get satisfaction from being part of a big group; others may prefer to have a friend or two at a time.
You should let your child express their own individuality but be there to offer your support and guidance.
How to keep friends
Keeping friends is just as important as making friends.
Some hints that your child may find helpful.
- Teach your child to appreciate their friends. This means that they should not take their friends for granted and show gratitude whenever their friends do nice things to them or for them.
- Tell your child that they will need to give time and attention to their friends- this means that they should from time to time remember to check how their friend is doing and make sure that they do some enjoyable activities with them when they can. This may mean you to be arranging play dates/sleepovers.
- Teach your child to be kind and forgiving – make them understand that their friend can make mistakes or hurt their feelings unintentionally. This should not affect the friendship.
- Teach your child that they should not be jealous of their friends – it is important for your child to understand that if their friend is better at somethings that they struggle with its ok as each person is different. Make them recognise their strong points.