Want to Help Your Child Make Friends?

relatioship skillsDeveloping friendships is an important life skill—one that seems very natural, but can actually be difficult to teach.  Good friends build our self-esteem, help us understand who we are, support and encourage us, and show us how to care about others.  On the flip side, learning to cope with the negative aspects of having friends, such as differences in opinion or broken trust are just as important.

Help your child learn to become a better friend by practicing skills like:

Understanding. Teaching your child to consider different perspectives and viewpoints is both challenging but invaluable to their development.  The “best” friends are those who understand other peoples’ perspectives, motivations and make others feel like they are actually being “heard.”  You can help your child develop understanding in a few different ways:

  • Challenge your child to consider how their actions make others feel. Ask your child, “I just said hello to you, and you didn’t respond. If your friend did that to you, how would you feel?”
  • When a conflict arises, ask your child what happened and why their friend might have reacted the way they did. Wait until your child is calm to make the most of this conversation.

Self-control. This world has many angry, impulsive people who do not deal with their negative emotions in healthy ways—i.e. explosive outbursts, substance abuse, violence, and many others.  Situations will arise that will frustrate your child and you can encourage your child to develop skills in keeping their emotional impulses in check.  Providing your child with healthy coping mechanisms can be some of the most helpful skills they will ever learn.  These take time to practice and develop, so find the ones that help best:

  • Exercise or physical activity. Children may not fully appreciate an exercise routine, but developing healthy exercise habits at a young age can help to balance and channel negative emotions toward producing positive energy.
  • Taking a break. Whether this means sleeping on a difficult decision or asking for a few quiet minutes alone before you say something you don’t mean, walking away from a volatile situation can have an enormous impact in a friendship or a professional situation.
  • Effective communication. More on this below, but communication means maintaining self-control, listening, and filtering your words. It’s often the norm for children to say whatever comes to their mind, but controlling this filter is an important part of effective communication.

Communication. Good, appropriate conversational skills will provide lifetime benefits for any child. While effective communication is powerful in developing and maintaining friendships, it is also a skill that will permeate through their professional lives as well.  Here are a few key points on developing good communication skills:

  • Listening to others when they speak is powerful. This may seem like a simple skill, but the impact it can have is truly astounding. Try eating dinner at the table and having conversations in the car without mobile devices—this helps develop conversational and listening skills.
  • Make conversations engaging for all parties. Help your child develop skills in asking good questions, not only to gain clarity on the subject at hand but also deepening the relationship between those in conversation.
  • Offering appropriate feedback and self-sharing. Introverts may share too little, and extroverts may monopolize conversations. Reading body language and balancing conversation are important and advanced cues to help our kids learn.

Practicing these skills with your child will make you feel like a better parent because you will not only reap intrinsic reward yourself, but you will also watch as your son or daughter develops into a young man or woman that you can be proud of.  So turn off the TV and mobile devices and start talking about school, relationships, ANYTHING!  Start practicing friendship building skills with your kids to help them develop relationships now and maintain them in the future.