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How to help your child cultivate friendships

Childhood friendships are an important and wonderful part of growing up. While some children are happy to have just one very close friend, others will become a member of a wide social circle. Although childhood friendships are largely outside of parental control, there are things you can do to help your child to make great friends.

Talk about friendship

It is a good idea to talk to your child about forming friendships. You can do this by sharing any memories you have of your own childhood friendships, paying particular attention to all the things that made those friendships work. This may encourage your child to discuss their own friendships and will also offers them the opportunity to talk about any problems they may be having with making friends.

Teach them social skills

In order for your child to make good friends, they will first needs to master several useful social behaviours. The ability to share, take turns and play co-operatively and fairly are all crucial skills that will aid your child when they are making new friends.

Build their confidence

Children who feel happy, secure and loved are more likely to feel confident when approaching other children. Making sure that your child knows what makes them special will inspire a powerful sense of self-worth and may also help them to avoid forming destructive and unhealthy friendships.

Seek out opportunities

You can help your child to meet new friends by enrolling them in after-school or weekend activities, such as dance classes, brownies or swimming. Taking part in something they enjoy will provide a fun, safe and positive environment where they can mix with other children who have similar interests.

Meet the parents

Whenever your child makes a new friend, take some time to get to know their parents. Not only will this help you to learn more about your child’s friend, it will also make it far easier to approach their mum or dad should any problems arise during the friendship.

Be tolerant of ‘bad’ friendships

Occasionally your child may make a friend that you do not approve of. This can be quite a difficult situation, but overacting or forbidding the friendship will only strengthen your child’s resolve to remain friends with their ‘undesirable’ pal.

Unless your child is actively being drawn into criminal or antisocial behaviour, it is usually more beneficial to allow the friendship to run its course. And, you never know, that child who seemed to be so unsuitable may even turn out to be your favourite — sometimes the best friends come in unusual packages.

Take a back seat

Although you are probably deeply interested in who your child is spending their time with and what they are doing when out of your sight, it is important not to interfere with your child’s friendships unless there are exceptional circumstances. All friendships have there highs and low, and your child needs to learn to cope with any minor problems alone. However…

Be ready to step in when necessary

Playground squabbles and mild teasing are an unpleasant, yet normal part of growing up. However, victimisation and bullying are never OK and should be dealt with as quickly as possible. If you are concerned that your child is being bullied, it is very important that you discuss the situation with them and then work on a solution together.

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