Making friends - What to Expect as a Parent
September 24, 2015
Your child is making friends: What to expect
While a teenager’s social life is often not a priority by parents, it is critical to their happiness, health, security and development.
So what should you expect as a parent with regard to your child making friends? How do you enable them while encouraging their independence?
1. Social interactions
Consider your child as an individual and see how he/she best operates in social interactions. Does they prefer large groups of friends or smaller, one-on-one interactions?
Help them around this by encouraging smaller gatherings or larger groups of friends based on their preferences.
2. Create a comfortable environment
If you create a comfortable environment at home that is welcoming to your child’s friends, you will enable them to navigate their relationships. If you open up your home, you will demonstrate to your child that their friendships are important, you welcome them, and that you are happy they are inviting people over.
3. Lead by example
A lot of what your child learns when it comes to making friends will come from your example. If you make their friends welcome, offer them food or drink, and ask them about their day when they arrive, your child will pick up on your actions.
4. What sort of friend are they?
If your child has friends over, keep an eye on the kind of friend they are. Do they boss the other child around or argue with them, are they assertive, or do they tend to take a backseat?
Through your observation, will you see how your child acts in one-on-one social situations, and you can help them to develop their behaviours if needs be.
5. Work through misunderstandings
All children have misunderstandings and arguments with their friends. Conflict is normal. A parent does not need to interfere in these arguments unless they become heated, they fester, or they become inappropriate in nature
If you feel a situation is upsetting or hurting your child or their friend(s), then it is time to step in. Otherwise it is better to allow your child to resolve their differences – perhaps with the aid of your advice.
6. Listen to your child
It is always good to take time out to listen to your child, especially when they open up about their friendships. If you feel that they are in any unhealthy friendships or groups, or there is any suggestion of bullying, take time to listen to what your child is saying.
If you think they will help your child, tell them stories about your experiences of friendship and situations that you have been in.
7. Friendship isn’t a numbers game
Teenagers like to become part of ‘tribes’ as part of their newfound independence. Some children are more popular than others and move in and out of different groups; others stay within one group for the duration of secondary school; and some children like to have one or two friends, whom they are perfectly content with.
Let your children know that friendships are not always about large numbers of people and that it’s perfectly valid to have a small amount of friends. At the same time, encourage them to mingle and be open to new friendships throughout their school life.