Some children are naturally social and have no trouble making friends wherever they go – at the local park, through sports and activities and at school. Other children may find it harder to make friends and may need to practise how to make friends, starting from approaching someone and introducing themselves. Friendships, after all, can take practice.
MAKING FRIENDS IN SCHOOL
Most schools will have a range of opportunities for students to build confidence and skills, through whole school and focused group activities. One of the most successful platforms for friendship is the simple yet effective Buddy Bench. Students sit on the buddy bench and others will come up and invite the student to play, or help that child to find a friend if it’s an older student.
The Friendology Program at Holy Cross School is another example. It helps students to build their self-confidence, to be a better friend themselves and to manage conflict when it arises. Students learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy friendships, and that trust and respect are essential qualities in a friendship.
HOW PARENTS CAN HELP THEIR KIDS BUILD POSITIVE FRIENDSHIPS
- Practise communication and being a good friend: In order to help deal with friendship issues, parents can encourage their children to voice their feelings. Some children need adults to remind them of the language they can use, the approaches they can take so that they can build their skills and their confidence. We need to empower our children to be able to manage social situations, rather than doing it for them.
- Provide opportunities to meet new people or to practise friendship skills: This could be through opportunities for playing outside of school. Even role playing how to introduce yourself to others at home can be helpful for children who are reserved or anxious around new people.
- Practise taking turns, sharing, winning and losing: Losing is often hard for children and a big source of friendship conflict. Provide opportunities to play games and take turns, win and lose and participate in their own and others’ games. Some need to be supported in building the resilience to lose well, to not always be the one who gets to choose the game and even to be ‘it’ when tagged. These skills might seem simple and obvious to some, but to other children, they need practice.
- Remind them to be themselves: Children need to recognise that they are unique and of great value. Friendships are great, but not if it means not being true to yourself.
NEGATIVE FRIENDSHIPS AND BULLYING
When it comes to children experiencing bullying behaviours, here are a few things parents can do:
- Listen to your child’s concerns and recognise the signs that something may be off. (Anxiety towards school, acting out, withdrawing, a change in behaviour).
- Ensure they have the skills to stand up and speak out.
- 3. Recognise the difference between normal age-appropriate behaviours and conflict, one-off mean behaviours, and bullying.
- Be aware of the online dangers. Ensure children know how to block people online, how to report unwanted behaviour and how to speak to others online. If we would not say it to someone’s face, we should not post it online.
- Communicate with the child’s school. Communication between home and school is very important in ascertaining the needs of the child. Communicating supports that are available and to build a network of trust and support for that child. The great news for parents is that there are many ways that schools help children to negotiate friendships and challenges in relationships.
Read about how you can stay one step ahead of bullying here.
Jacinta Roberts is the Assistant Principal Religious Education at Holy Cross School, Trinity Park