Friends and friendships

Published Categorized as friendship skills

It’s another thing to worry about as a parent/carer for sure: has my child got enough friends? Do they manage their friendships well? Or even as a baseline worry: do other children like them?

Mostly I feel any kind of adult intervention in children socialising beyond – say for example – organising the practicalities of a birthday party and arranging play dates or the necessity of addressing bullying, is probably best avoided. Adult involvement seems to unnecessarily complicate, over-protect and prevent a valuable learning opportunity for children. (Although there are definitely a small number of exceptions where adults intervening becomes  beneficial.) Children generally do find their own way and they learn a lot from the tussles of friendships thriving, failing and not even making it to the start line – as we all do.

But that is not to say that we can’t give our children general advice or help them along with skills and attitudes that can help their friendships thrive. And we can actively listen (for tips on this see here) to their concerns and take them seriously – that is always validating, empowering and enabling.

I made this summarising video: What can we say about friends and friendships? that considers some key aspects of friendship as a starter for parents/carers and teachers helping children to explore this possibly under-considered, but important, aspect of life. I could imagine many spin-off conversations as a result of each ‘frame’ of the content in this video. I hope it inspires some discussion!

Key points in the video:

  • We are not meant to be everyone’s friend.
  • It’s normal to like some people more than others.
  • We are not always aware of what it is about a friend that we like – mostly we just know we like spending time with them.
  • Different friendships last different amounts of time.
  • Sometimes friends upset each other and/or fall out.
  • When a friend upsets you, it’s good to remember it was the behaviour that upset you and that you are almost definitely still meant to be friends. It’s wise to see the behaviour as the issue, not the (whole) friend, as this can make you more determined to sort things out and less likely to hold onto what happened.
  • It’s also good to remember everyone makes mistakes, occasionally does thoughtless things and upsets other people. Forgiving others in a way that we would like to be forgiven when we make a mistake, helps friendships thrive.
  • Sorting out a situation when friends upset you, usually means everyone ends up feeling better.
  • Addressing upsets in friendships requires some determination to sort things out, talking and listening carefully in a calm way and aiming to get to a place where you both understand and forgive each other.
  • Differences in opinions and beliefs within friendships need to be respected. Differences make the world more interesting.
  • Making new friends can seem daunting to some people but it’s usually about keeping things simple.
  • It’s good to know when ‘friendships’ are not healthy and when you would be wise to step away from them.
  • Spending time with good friends nearly always makes you feel great.

For young children my book: Will you be my friend? also provides discussion prompts for parents/carers/teachers and their children to explore friends and friendships.