Friendship… as adults we understand theimportance of this word.
By Kristen Salov
Friendship… as adults we understand theimportance of this word. We know how special it is to have that someone to lean on, to call in a crisis or to get much-needed advice. Most of us have mastered the art of friendship. We have weeded through the ones that were not worthy, and have been true to those who have stood the test of time. We have learned to take the good with the bad, to love from the inside out, and to accept others even though we may not always agree. It has taken us a long time to figure this all out, but, in the end, the time invested was well worth the cherished friendships we have cultivated throughout the years.
Our children feel the same yearning for friendship with their peers. At their age, the word may not have the same depth of meaning, but they feel the same level of emotional need. Friendship promotes confidence, character, and self-worth. It teaches the importance of sharing, forgiveness, and acceptance. That is why it is so important that we as parents help guide our children to cultivate friendships with meaning and value. We need to teach our children how to be a friend, keep a friend, and protect a friendship.
I often discuss this topic with my elementary school students. As an educator, I tend to focus on how to build a friendship and how to maintain that status. However, there are many discussions about the changes, good and bad, that students experience in their relationships throughout the school year. The reality of friendships is that some will last and others will dissolve, therefore we also need to give our children the tools to cope and to move forward. I always like to suggest to parents to talk about their own friendships. For example, tell them why you still talk to your high school or college friends; how your relationships grew strong and lasted. It will give them a good sense that friendships can stand the test of time, and how important it is to appreciate when they do.
Ask your children about their friends. The key is to be completely present and listen to what they have to say. What makes them feel good about their friendship, what may make them feel sad? Why is this friend important to them? How do they feel when they are with him or her? Be sensitive to their emotions. Depending on their responses you can help guide them to discover actions that will move the friendship forward.
We all want our children to build lasting friendships. We want them to experience those special moments when they wouldn’t think about doing anything unless it was with that one particular friend and/or group of friends. Helping our children learn how to have this treasured experience should be important to us!
Ten Tips for Young Children on How to Make Friends
1) Think about whom you want to be friends with and why you like them.
2) Take part in after-school activities such as sports, clubs, or other programs that interest you.
3) Introduce yourself and repeat the name of the person you’re meeting (this will help you remember their name).
4) Work on your listening skills and think before you talk.
5) Be sensitive to other people.
6) When people say nice things to you, say thank-you without being silly. Also say nice things to others.
7) Take your time making friends. You always want to be around the people that make you feel good, not people that make you feel uncomfortable when you are spending time with them.
8) Be willing to risk having someone say no – some people may not be open to making new friends, but it is important to try anyway!
9) Be positive and cheerful, people like to be around others that will make them feel good.
10) Ask for play-dates or plan special outings so your friend knows you like to spend time with them.
The author is the Rye Youth Council Elementary School Youth Advocate.