"I don't have any friends, I have nobody to talk to at school, all the kids are making excuses to avoid inviting me to things." This is enough to break your heart as a parent in today's society. These are the basic habits you can teach your children to help them thrive during the critical years of learning and development.
Learn how to be a good friend
Teaching your child how to be a good friend takes a lot of effort, if you stick at it, focusing on one aspect at a time you will eventually help your child to be a good friend and grow up to be someone who has many great friends.
Here are three basic habits you can teach your children to help them thrive during the critical years of learning about friendship.
Friendship habit No. 1: Ask others about themselves
One of the most eye-opening facts about friendship is this: To be a good friend, you don't tell people about yourself. You ask them about themselves.
This is the starting point. You might find your child saying "Me, too!" in order to fit in. But in time they will learn that these are better conversation starters, "What does your family do for summer vacation?" and urge another kid to talk about themselves, they just might think you are pretty cool.
Children are often seen as easier to be around when they stop talking about themselves (unless asked) and try to learn things about other people.
Focus on one aspect at a time. Gradually coach your kids to learn at least one or two things a week that they didn't know about a friend — or someone they want as a friend. Teach them to ask questions like: "What was your favorite vacation?" "What are your favorite video games?"
Now be careful, easy does it. This process must be very easy to start, so that the habit can be ingrained without causing any unnecessary stress for your child or you!
Friendship habit No. 2: Make others comfortable
Another prerequisite for being a good friend is observing how others feel and setting them at ease.
Young children can be naturally self-focused, not realizing, for example, that the buddy they've invited over is watching instead of helping build the LEGO tower. Instead of simply instructing your child to include his friend in playing, pull him aside for a moment and ask, "Joey, what do you think Bobby feels like when you're doing all the building and not letting him play?
Teaching sensitivity becomes especially important during the middle school years when kids aren't as accepting of one another and are much more aware of the social pecking order. Kids need to know that they don't have to be close buddies with everyone, but they do have to be sensitive to the feelings of others. Teach a confident child to put himself in the shoes of an insecure classmate, and help an insecure child understand that even kids who look confident often are not.
Friendship habit No. 3: Reach out
Ultimately, the only way for children to become friends is to spend time together. That means someone has to take the initiative, and someone has to facilitate the plan. Before kids can drive, a lot of their success as a friend will depend on you. Your daughter can say she wants to have Jennie over to visit, but she'll need your help to make that happen.
As children get into the preteen years, a huge part of being a good friend includes taking the risk of reaching out and inviting someone over to your house. This key friendship skill can start with you prompting your kids by asking, "Who do you want to get together with? OK, good. Why don't you ask her if she'd like to come over this Saturday?"
These habits take practice. As your child sees that these relational habits actually work, this progress will be the best possible incentive to continue trying.
Observe your child's reactions as closely as you can. Make changes as you go along.
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