Forging firm friendships
Children’s friendships are important for a number of reasons.
They provide a unique opportunity to learn interaction and relationship skills.
They provide children with an important source of information and insight about themselves — seeing themselves through the eyes of their friends.
They are a great source of learning, about social rules and solving problems, etc.
They enhance emotional wellbeing, especially important as children begin to experience stress in their lives.
Various research studies have provided us with key insights into children’s friendships.
The ease with which children form and maintain friendships can be affected by their earliest relationships. Babies who form a secure attachment with their caregiver are much more likely to make and keep friends easily later in life.
There is a distinction between being popular and having friends. A child could be the most popular child in the class, yet not feature as one other child’s best friend. Another child may not be popular but may have a stable, fulfilling, relationship with one or two close friends.
A young child’s most important relationships are the ones formed with their parents. Parents who give their child opportunities to meet other children are allowing them to build important social skills.
In the first few years of school, a child will have, on average, five to six friends. This number will rise to about nine by the age of nine to 10, but will decrease slightly in pre-adolescence.
By middle childhood (midway through national school) there is an almost complete sex segregation in children’s peer relationships. This remains the case until early adolescence.
The move from primary to secondary school is a particularly vulnerable time for children in terms of their friendships.
Friends are more likely to have more conflicts than they would in their more casual relationships. They provide essential training in how to manage conflict in relationships in ways to allow the friendship to continue and even grow.
Parents set the scene in terms of their child’s relationships. The relationship you form with your child as a young baby will influence how he views the world — is it a hostile place or a welcoming place?
You cannot choose your child’s friends. You need to respect your child’s choices. Avoid being too intrusive in your child’s relationships. While you may need to intervene at times, you should try to leave him to work out his own difficulties.
Paying attention and offering advice is not the same as being intrusive and meddling. Even at age six and seven, children may still need reminders to respect each other.
Know your child’s friend’s parents — it will make it easier to communicate with them.
Don’t get involved in your child’s fights, unless he is being bullied. Children will learn more if they resolve disputes on their own.
For more information visit www.RollerCoaster.ie, Ireland’s no 1 website for parents.