My youngest, a high school Freshman, had several friends stay over recently. Some of them have been friends since 2nd or 3rd grade, others since 5th or 6th. They’ve made it through middle school together.
Each of my kids have had good friends. It’s not just luck, and it’s also not without hurt.
Your kids can find good friends. But it starts young. Here are 5 tips for helping your kids forge quality friends.
- Teach them what it means to feel respected and honored. Use those words–honor and respect–when you see it in action. Also, discuss what it’s not when you see someone disrespect another person either in person or on TV. Call it what it is when a classmate or friend disrespects them. Correct your child when they aren’t treating someone with respect or honor. Have honor be the code in all relationships.
- Seek out friends whose families have similar values. While kids are separate entities than their parents, they do pick up their parent’s values. Kids can be raised with similar values and still be a bad friend, but the odds are less likely if their parents have ethics which resemble yours.
- Talk about quality vs. quantity relationships. Having one or two friends who your teen feels comfortable with is more important than having lots of friends who don’t really care about them. Let your child know this is okay, and that it’s important, especially in the upper elementary and middle school years when social groups are forming. Having one friend who has your back means you may have to avoid the larger group who doesn’t.
- Model good relationships. Your kids observe your friendships with others. They can tell when you’re being disrespected or when popularity is your priority. If you gossip or let gossip cripple your self-esteem, don’t expect anything different from your preteen or teen. Kids look to adults for the unwritten rules of life. Insecure, bad relationships or healthy, trustworthy relationships are modeled first by you.
- Keep the doors of communication open between you and your teen. Your kids, especially teens, need to be able to come to you when they’re navigating bad friendships. If you’re quick to judge or lecture before listening, they’ll be less likely to talk to you about their struggles. Kids often say, “You don’t understand” because they fear judgment or condemnation. Your kids need you even if they don’t say so.
- Support them when others come against them, equipping them to be strong and assertive when necessary. Bullying is real. If bullying behavior happens from so-called friends, then it’s not a friendship and your child should stop hanging out with that person or group. If your child has chronic problems with being insecure, victimized, or put-down in friendships, you may want to consider counseling or extra-curricular activities which builds their confidence and assertiveness.
Good friendships really can’t be formed in 6 easy steps. These are tips to start the process. It’s most important to know your child, who their friends are, and to be actively engaged in relationships outside of your family.
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