It’s important for your child to learn the art of socialising and making friends. Here are a few major steps involved in getting friendly:
This is the first step to making friends. If your child is reluctant or unsure, make suggestions on how to make contact with other kids his age. Here are some suggestions you could make. ‘You could ask if Sheena wants to play with you in the break or is she has read the new Harry Potter.’ Provide play materials that promote the ability to speak, such as dumb charades and board games.
To be able to empathise with others, your child needs self-esteem and a lot of self-confidence. Make your child aware of his social skills. This will help him become sensitive to others, helpful and considerate. ‘I like that you set up the board game.’ ‘It was brave of you to stand by Kavita when she is angry.’
This is the basis of any friendship. He doesn’t always have to agree with his peers but must learn how to present his views honestly without hurting others. This balancing act needs a lot of practice. Show your child how to discuss and argue openly, fairly and with humour.
Being fair also requires training but it is not all that difficult if you heed these rules: no swear words and insults. Do not hit and punch. Let other kids voice what is on their mind without interrupting. If something is unclear, ask for clarification to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations.
Hatred, jealously, envy, competitiveness… It is not unusual for a child to experience these emotions. Girls, in particular, harbour the nuances of these emotions and one often hears a child remark, ‘I hate Preethi’ or ‘Preethi is my best friend.’ When disputes occur, help your child look at them in perspective and explain that it is better to give in than to lose a friend.
Friends stick together. Show your child that things are more fun and simply easier when kids work with each other. Promote team spirit rather than rivalry. Children who are good team players are almost always good friends. Team skills are learnt in sports or acting class.
Children often fight. But no friendship can handle it beyond a point. Once you get in for every little thing in the wool, it might just mean the end of your friendship. Compatibility can be a bit of practice, by inserting hand or finger puppets to role play to teach the rules of the friendly co-existence: to listen, take turns to give way.
Good listening means you have to pay close attention so that you can repeat what was said, perceive the feelings of others and to relate to what is said. Ask your child questions like, ‘What do you think your friend is thinking?’
Trust is the foundation of friendship. Real friends do not let each other down and friendships don’t have to end when trust is broken because, with children, ‘secrets’ are usually about something trivial. But when secrets involve serious issues such as alcohol, drugs, banned video and computer games any form of violence, parents must get involved.
Keeping in touch
Help your child stay in touch with their friends, after moving or changing schools, with visits, e-mail, telephone or via Skype. If a friendship does end when one of the children moves away, take comfort. Children usually emerge stronger from separation and they soon find new friends.