Kids are concerned and consumed with so many things these days: everything from the newly released video game and neon-colored sneakers to fast cars and even faster technology. With all these trends and toys being on the forefront of teenagers’ minds, when did being a good friend lose its luster?
Or maybe it hasn’t? Whether a friend for life or a friend for right now, what does it take to be a good friend, and how can you help a child make one?
How Children Learn to Make Friends
As the old saying goes: “Monkey see, monkey do,” this rings true for people as well. Kids learn everything from watching others. They learn how to share, compromise, fight, play, work, and how to have fun. Yet the ups and downs of friendships can be hard for those on the outside to watch.
In order for a child to make a friend, and have a healthy and positive relationship with this friend, it’s important that role models and children of similar interests and behaviors surround him or her. Modeling is so important for children, as shown in countless research, and it has to start with those in charge. Adults need to speak in a positive tone, interact in a non-combative manner, and behave in a socially acceptable way. This means, if you want a child to make a friend then you need to set the example yourself for what a good friendship is. Teach children empathy by having your children help you do things like opening the door for people, delivering food to a sick neighbor, or making a birthday card for a grandparent. What happens at home tends to spill over to the outside world so doing more good than not is always the best option.
Making Friends is Cool
All the cool kids are doing it, right? But just because it’s cool, doesn’t mean you have to be cool, sort of. Because we are a melting pot of cultures, traditions, likes and dislikes, everyone is different; and while opposites do attract sometimes, other times, it’s OK to be different. Kids want to play with kids with whom they can have fun or interact and have things in common without feeling alienated. Children don’t know how to handle stress or pressure like adults do, so to prevent them from running into a wall, explain that being different is OK. Children shouldn’t feel like they have to act, talk, or dress a certain way in order to “fit in.” As a society, these standards have molded themselves into a way of life, but that’s not how it has to be.
As an adult, surrounding children with others who share similar interests, you are providing a place of comfort for a child. Feeling safe may not be on the forefront of most kids’ minds, but human nature puts it there anyway. Helping guide children to this haven of fun and frolic will benefit everyone involved. Let a child show you what kind of social interactions work best for him. If he or she loves group situations, that’s great. But if groups are upsetting, see if he or she does better playing with one or two children at a time and make it a point to provide these types of settings.
Friends Make Great Friends
Younger kids need direction and it’s the responsibility of the adults around them to steer them the right way. Even when children are old enough to make their own decisions, encourage them to make the right choices. Making friends who also make good decisions will have a far better grasp on how to treat others than those who make poor choices, serving as a positive influence and not tempting others around them to misbehave.
Misunderstandings are common to friendships and a child may need help working through emotions from time to time. The way a child perceives a friends’ behavior tends to determine how he or she will feel. Being a friend when times get tough is what separates an acquaintance from a true friend. If a friend has a child’s back, even through tumultuous times, keep them around as these are who you want hanging around.
Finding a friend whose worthy of spending time together is something for which everyone should strive. A healthy balance of fun, laughter, lessons learned, and humility can make a newfound friendship one that lasts.
Help a child make friends by becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister today!