As your kids head back to school, it’s the perfect time of year to teach them about fostering social connections – aka how to make and maintain friendships. While every child is different in terms of how much of a social connection they need to feel happy, we know that when our kids have a best friend they love to play with, life just seems more cheery.
Plus friendships provide so much more than just a playmate. Some benefits of friendship include our children learning to:
- Develop emotionally and morally
- Build social skills – communication, cooperation, problem solving
- Learn emotional responses to situations
- Form better attitudes about school and learning (when friends are present kids tend to enjoy their setting more)
So what are some ways you can foster friendships for your children and/or talk to them about forming friendship? Here are a few tips:
Take the time. Encourage your children to spend time with their peers and friends. While time alone is also crucial so is socializing. This is especially true for shy children who may need to find activities they like to do with others such as sports, art, classes outside of school, etc. instead of just play dates that may be hard for them at first. Test it out and see what your child likes best.
Teach sensitivity and empathy. It’s important for kids to recognize how others are feeling, especially in close friendships. Talk to them about different situations – how they may feel and how their friends may feel. For instance, perhaps your child’s friend’s family is dealing with something difficult such as job loss or a grandparent passing…or maybe it’s a new baby in the household. Do they feel left out? Important still? Teach them to think about how to recognize how others may be feeling or another person’s point of view.
Practice social skills. Playing games with your children is a great way to teach them important social skills such as taking turns, listening, cooperation, leadership and sportsmanship. The more they can practice and understand these concepts the better friend they will be. The good ‘ol saying, “Treat others the way you want to be treated” makes a lot of sense here.
Make it light and have fun. The last thing you want to do is force your children to form friendships. That sort of pressure won’t do anyone any good. If you overwhelm your child with advice it won’t seem natural to make friends and talk to new people. Instead just give them a bit of knowledge and skill and send them on their way. Let them figure out what works for them at their own pace.
Be a good role model. Lastly, remember to be a good role model. If your children experience you hanging out with friends, catching up with them on the phone or sending a card, they’ll begin to learn what friendship means and what it takes to maintain one.
Mom’s Choice Awards Inspiration!
One fun idea is for your child to give his or her best friend something to show how much they care. They can make something or try this Mom’s Choice Award winning product called My Circle of Creativity™ arts & crafts kit by Choose Friendship Company. The kit allows a child to create and give handmade friendship bracelets to as tokens of friendship. It includes everything they need to create custom Kumihimo Pattern Friendship bracelets, key chains, and lanyards. A wonderful toy for encouraging creative self-expression while promoting the message of friendship and giving. (Recommended for children ages 8 and up, $29.99).
This post was originally posted on the now-defunct Mom’s Choice Matters blog on 8/30/2012.