Tips for Dealing with Your Kids Friendship Challenges

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Posted by: Sue Atkins

Friendships

We’ve all been there ….. your child comes home upset and distressed about falling out with their friend or friends at school.

You feel helpless or protective and want to rush out and sort it all out for your child…… but here’s a few practical tips……

Younger children are egocentric ( which is a perfectly normal stage of child development in the toddler years) which means that they are totally self centred and find thinking about another person’s feelings impossible. So they fall in and out of friendships quite a lot.

Primary school aged kids enjoy friendships with their normal ups and down but girls in particular fall into the ‘Best Friend’ syndrome around the age of 8 & get very distressed if their ‘BFFE’ (Best Friends Forever) goes off and plays or sits next to someone else. I remember the Dads of two girls in my class almost coming to blows after the Christmas Carol Service over their daughter’s falling out that day at school!

Older children’s friendships tend to be more constant but when they fall out it can be quite intense.

What To Do

  • Listen – remember this adage ‘You have two ears and one mouth for a reason!’ Don’t rush into rescue. Simply listen and let your child feel heard. When a child feels heard they feel understood and sometimes all they need is a good listening ear to work things out for themselves.
  • Offer words of comfort and reassurance – a hug or a ruffle of their hair can be important to your child to feel loved.
  • Keep things in perspective – kids often fall out one day and best of buddies the next. Keep things in perspective and wait and watch to see how things develop and pan out.
  • Ask Open Ended Questions – open ended questions that get your child thinking for themselves are empowering. So think ‘How can I empower my child?’ rather than ‘How can I rescue my child?’ ask questions  like ‘What do you think you can do to sort this out?’ What do you think happened to make your friend say that or do that?’ Help your child try and fix it for themselves as that will empower them in life generally too which makes them more confident to handle life’s daily challenges.
  • Keep an eye on things from afar – if this constantly happens or if it escalates into bullying then step in and speak to your child’s teacher or tutor. But always ‘Strike When The Iron Is Cold!’ – don’t go blustering in – you may make things worse. Make an appointment have a bullet point list and have the mindset to be part of the home/ school solution.
  • ‘Talk & Teach’ your child about healthy friendships based on respect, patience, tolerance, honesty and kindness.

Learning about friendship is an important part of life. Friendships take time to nurture, need looking at if they have you going down a negative or wrong path and need watering to grow. Children need to learn how to negotiate, compromise, stand up for themselves in life and where better to learn those skills but in their friendships with you guiding them.

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