Everyday we see articles and reports about children being bullied at school. And as parents, I think we all believe that friendships are the perfect antidote to bullying. If our kids have friends, then whether or not there are some mean kids picking on them is immaterial. So our quest is to guarantee that our children have friends. There is a problem with that logic. And therefore, I have created this short list of secrets about what do in regard to your child and his/her friends. I am quite knowledgeable on this topic, as I have raised four-well adjusted and happy young adults. I have witnessed loads of hurt feelings, cattiness, invitations that were expected and not forthcoming, and online bullying. My husband and I have spent many a sleepless night, debating friendship issues. I have earned my stripes on this topic...so here are my simple secrets that I learned the hard way...
1. Avoid Criticizing Your Child's Friends. Instead of criticizing, it is your job to get to know them. Get to know them, by inviting them over frequently. Learn what it is your child likes about them. When you are critical of their friends, you are criticizing your own child's judgment and pushing them away. They will hold back information about the friends you have criticized in an effort to stop your criticism. This is exactly what you don't want. So hold your tongue.
2. Teach Your Children The Characteristics Of Friendship. Talk about characteristics such as loyalty, being a good listener, caring about each other's feelings, and honesty. If children are never taught about these character traits, they don't understand how important they become in a friendship. Also, your children need guidance as to how to be a good friend to someone else.
3. Parental Friendships Don't Always Transfer. Often times, we believe that if we like someone, our children will like their children. This is not always the case. Let your children choose their own friends, just as you choose yours. Sometimes the apple clearly has fallen very far from the tree. I will leave it at that.
4. When It Hurts, There Is Always Home. Home should be a nurturing place that a child knows he/she can find everlasting support and love. A child struggling with friendships, needs to know that his/her parents never waver in their faith in him/her to find the right friends, and the fact that he/she is worthy of peer relationships. Parents who criticize children because they don't have friends or the right friends are as guilty as the bullies in school.
5. Facilitate Positive Relationships. If or when your child is struggling with friendship issues, it is vitally important to help them find environments that make them feel accepted and affirmed. Try to get them in to a church group, volunteer opportunity, scouting or sporting group, somewhere that they have relationships with peers or others that appreciate them and make them feel worthy. This will help build confidence and expose them to an environment outside of school.