Friendships are not only a source of fun; they also help children to grow in meaningful ways. Having friends create a sense of identity for children and one important aspect is learning how their peers react to them. They learn to grow beyond self-interest and shift from thinking solely to a more emphatic perspective towards others.
Having a friend teaches them how to temper selfish urges and open the way for negotiation, compromise and even generosity.
Why it is harder for Children to develop Friendships Nowadays
When parents jam packed their children’s activities as much as possible and more families are becoming smaller and more dispersed; our children are having lesser time to interact with peers outside.
With the introduction of video games and social media, our children are beginning to have an increasingly misconstrued image of what are friends. Most children are beginning to look upon the number of virtual “friends” and “likes” as a basis for self-worth. Others believe that maintaining virtual friendships via video games is a form of social contact. What they don’t understand that this is a very diluted form of social contact and is really a easy way to tune out the social world in time to come.
How to Develop Friendships
Learning friendship skills is really like doing a math problem sum. Both involve three processes : seeing, thinking and doing.
For example, a child needs to read a math problem sum before recognising that it is a subtraction problem. Then, the child needs to think of the right strategy to to work out the sum correctly in order to solve the problem. Cam this sum be solved with little practice? Chances are, they will need to practice it several times before they are good at it.
This is similar to a social situation. First, the child must be able to see what’s going on by picking up social cues from different settings. Only then are they able to decide the best appropriate actions from the various behavioural responses possible.
They also need to recognise if they are actually contributing to the problems as well by monitoring the reactions of others. This will allow them to select another course of action instead. Children who are unable to pick up these cues will find themselves ostracised as they may have unwittingly offend others or persist in actions that others found irritating.
The children must also be able to think about social situations by interpreting and understand actions of others. This can also help them to come up with effective strategies to influence peers in desired ways. To do this, they must know what are the expected behaviours and being able to predict others’ likely responses to their actions. Otherwise they may often misjudge a situation and will not be sure of how to react.
Lastly, the children must have many chances to interact with others positively so that they can feel genuinely confident and comfortable in social situations. If not, they may freeze up and feel anxious before blurting out an inappropriate comment.
Facing a Friendship Issue
While most of us may rush in to help our child with their friendship problems, it is advisable to let your child handle it first while you listen and emphasise with them at the side. Do not ask questions such as “Was anyone mean to you today?” As this sets them up for the victim mentality.
If all else fails, ask your child’s teacher as they may be in the know of the social situation. The teacher can be the one who guides your child toward better choices or mediating between conflicts.
Making friends is tricky. For the next few posts, we will be taking a look at the various issues that occur when making friends.