How to foster friendship in Children
This month we noticed a lot of chatter through our parents & friends group and in the community around children and friendships. This is a hot topic in our household at the moment so we went out to our community to find out what they thought.
We know friendships give your school-age child a sense of belonging, builds self-esteem, and helps them develop social skills. We think it is important to support our child’s friendships, we do this by getting to know friends and organising playdates. However, it is when children have friendship troubles, that can be tricky, we know it helps to talk about it. If you’re concerned about your child’s friendships, it’s always good to talk with your child’s teacher, chappy or support person.
We asked seven people in our Wide Bay community who work with children every day; how parents, carers and educators may help children foster good healthy friendships and this is what they told us.
Like a lot of areas of raising children we best help them help themselves. One of the ways we teach this at Rhee Taekwondo is by teaching the following;
Instead of going and LOOKING for a friend, go out and BE a friend. We ask our students; if you could design the perfect friend, what would you program them to act like and do?
This results in a list of what they find desirable in a friend that includes things like; be nice, respectful, helpful, say nice things, not bossy, doesn't lie, keeps secrets and a variety of other attractive behaviours.
We then encourage the students to BE those things, instead of only looking for them in others, because that's what just about everyone admires in a potential friend. They learn that if they can show people that they're genuinely a fun, generous and trustworthy person to be around then they will have no shortage of people wanting to be friends with them, they won't have to go looking”.
Nathan Van der Klugt - Rhee Tae Kwon Do Bundaberg
Give children space where they can come together in a multi age environment that requires children to collaborate and foster interests. When children are engaged and see others have the same interests or values they can enter play and form a bond, friendships come from there after time.
Elizabeth - Terra Tribe Farm
There is no magic trick to making friends. Friendship is a skill that children can be coached in and learn with daily practice, just like any other skill. Friendships depend on emotional skills, self-regulation and social competence. These include elements such as understanding the emotions of others, trust, negotiation, compromise, cooperation and knowing how to apologise, and all together with knowing how to participate in conversations, being able to make amends and showing sympathy.
By taking the time to be empathetic, understanding and engaged, we can actively teach children how to build friendships in positive and healthy ways.
Amy Griffin - St Luke's Anglican School - Youth Minister
From my perspective, keeping kids active together and giving them challenges in a team environment. For example having children put into teams and given tasks to achieve. Nominate two leaders in each team then rotate the leaders until everyone has had a chance to lead. I believe by having to work together it places you in a position of bonding with others which creates friendship.
Peter McElligott - Bundy Bowl & Leisure
Navigating friendships is an essential part of a child's social/ emotional development. Having friends helps us all develop a sense of belonging and boosts our happiness. Developing friendships is incredibly important for a child as it helps them establish their sense of identity, self-confidence, self-esteem and identify their individual strengths. It also builds their capacity for empathy and developing skills such as turn taking, cooperating and listening to others.
Parents, carers and educators can foster friendships in children by modelling healthy friendship behaviour, and connecting with them (and their friends) in meaningful ways. Exploring issues around friendships is also essential as children will come across challenges such as conflict and unhealthy friendships as they grow. In the Creative Counselling space, we often use role play in the form of puppets, toys and drama games that supports the child's understanding of healthy vs unhealthy friendships, and helps them to cultivate an awareness of nurturing connection.
Kara J Watson - Creative Therapy Bundaberg
Taking your children to an art gallery can definitely foster friendship. The Art Gallery is an inclusive space where personal expression is valued by all who participate regardless of their abilities. Fostering connections with other creative people by viewing their artworks including all different mediums of works gives a wider view of the world. The gallery is the perfect place to have an ART DATE with your child and maybe invite some of their friends along.
Toni Schuch- Bundaberg Art Gallery
Forming friendships and connection in social settings is a vital part of social and emotional development in children. However, friendships are not always straightforward, and children can sometimes struggle with confidence within social settings. Younger children need support in navigating social environments and developing connection and friendships.
As adults, in home and social environments we should model appropriate friendship behaviours to children through connection, positive interactions, showing kindness and empathy to others and encouraging cooperative behaviours. During social interactions it is important to remember that children are still developing pro social behaviours and may need some assistance in navigating situations that require sharing and negotiating with others, this is a time when adults can encourage communication between the children and role model appropriate behaviours to establish a collaborative outcome. The long-term goal in developing connection and friendships in children is having a positive sense of identity and experiencing respectful and responsive relationships through their life journey.
Jasmine Harris - Connections Play Therapy
There are many opportunities to help kids to foster friendship in the Wide Bay, here are some of our favourites.
Playgroup is the perfect introduction to creating friendship. There are many playgroups in the Wide Bay region. View our playgroup guide here.
Sporting Clubs in Wide Bay are a great way to start children socialising with others. Kids may start in sports lessons from toddler years. You can try a variety of sports lessons and make sure it's all about being active and having fun.
Social Clubs are always looking for new members. When you join Girl Guides, Scouts, Navy Cadets, Orienteering or a Wildlife Caring Club you become part of the team.
Family Day Care is a safe setting for children to develop social skills. Southern Cross Family Day Care offer care for babies and young children in their own home, providing unique family-like experiences.
Rhee Taekwondo Bundaberg has a big focus on friendship. Every class allows for continual training enabling students to learn to think for themselves and become a positive influence and role model to other classmates and in their community.
Terra Tribe Farm Kids head outdoors, swap screens for survival skills, encouraging leadership by teaching kids about permaculture, nature and sustainability at its outdoor programs including Forest Kindy.
Gymfinity Gymnastics The children's classes at Gymfinity range from toddlers to teens. The classes allow kids to develop friendships with their peers.
Bundy Bowl and Leisure Centre has so many great activities including that help encourage friendship, leadership, resilience and independence in children.
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts about how parents, carers and educators may help foster friendship in children.