As parents, we know that our child’s peer relationships can have an overwhelming impact on their quality of life. The chances are that if your child is school-aged, they are spending more time with their peers than you. Your child may be experiencing challenges related to making and keeping friends. As we get adjusted to being back to school, we’d like to highlight some useful tips for preparing and helping your child navigate the important task of choosing, making, and keeping healthy friendships.
1). One of the activities I like to do with students is called “a perfect friend.” Have your child identify (through conversation or drawing) what a “perfect friend” would be like. Have them in detail explain what their friend would say or not say, do or not do, and most importantly, how their friends would make them feel. Then ask them which qualities of a “perfect friend” they currently have? After they identify those qualities, ask them to look at their current friends and see if any of them possess these attributes. This is a good way to explore friendships and the expectations our children have.
2). Discuss your family values about how to treat others and how you expect others to treat you. Model those values in your adult friendships and relationships. Children are always watching, and they will learn to navigate social situations by watching you navigate yours. Tell your child what you like about your friends, how they make you feel when you’re around them, and how your friendship started (i.e., a shared class, interest, or knowing someone in common).
3). Discuss how to manage conflict with friends when someone hurts their feelings or when they hurt someone else’s feelings. Give your child language for how to bring up difficult topics with their friends, and remind them that you are always someone they can come to before they talk it out with their friend.
In next week’s blog, we will expand on how to teach your child to address unhealthy peer relationships, set appropriate boundaries, and manage conflict.
Suzette Toscano, LMFT