We all want the best for our kids, but as parents, we have to accept that we can’t do everything for them. Instead, it’s our job to help them make sound decisions as they grow up. Among these decisions is how to choose the right friends to make.
Your child might be shy and have difficulty making friends. Or perhaps he/she tends to choose people whose traits are not healthy to adapt. We can’t choose our kids’ friends, but at a young age, we can help them make good friends.
Remember that it’s not just their happiness that we are after or just to find peers that our kids can hang out with. We also want our children to make lasting friendships, and choose people who can influence their character in a good way.
Observe How Your Child Socializes
Before you suggest anything, observe your child first on how he/she socializes. Some introverted kids enjoy their time alone more compared to other children. While others love being surrounded by peers and impressing them.
When you attend school activities, notice how your child is interacting with other kids. Are there some similarities or differences in how he/she interacts with others at home? For example, my son is very talkative when he is with his siblings, but at school, he’s only as talkative with his best friend.
I notice that he rarely starts conversations with other kids, and would rather have his best friend do the talking. However, this isn’t really too worrisome to me, but it helped me know what area I can help my child with. The proper way of starting and keeping conversations is what I can contribute to my child.
Once you’ve realized where your child needs help, don’t avoid the problem. Instead, address the situation and slowly face the challenge with your child. Know that it’s not bad to gently push your child beyond his/her comfort zone. Just remember not to pressure your child, and just slowly encourage him/her to try these new situations.
Every child is unique, and you know your little one better than anyone. Use the information you know on what you should expect from them. Just because his/her siblings make a lot of friends more than them doesn’t mean that your child will also have as much. At the same time, we’re not after making a lot of friends. We want to help our kids develop healthy relationships, even if their numbers can be counted by hand.
Remember how we are taught that we attract what we are? I think this is also applicable to making friends, especially with young kids. They bond with their peers if they share the same interests and passion. At the same time, they get to meet good friends if they also emanate the same positive character traits.
A way to make good friends is if you are confident with yourself. Having a strong sense of self and worth will make it unlikely for your child to get influenced by people with bad behavior. Your child won’t also feel compelled to follow toxic habits like bullying if he/she feels confident with himself/herself. So how can we help our young ones build confidence?
You can start by supporting your child’s passion. It may seem simple, but feeling encouraged and supported goes a long way toward building someone’s self-confidence. My son has always shown interest in outdoor activities like scooter riding, but he always doubts himself if he can actually do it. I decided to get a scooter like the ones here, and suggested that I teach him on how to ride it safely.
On the outside, riding the scooter just seems so mundane, but it allowed my child to finally see that he is capable of doing things he deemed difficult. Afterward, let your child work things out on his/her own, as this gives them the idea that they can do things without help. Of course, you should always supervise them for their safety, but these practices of independence build confidence.
If you’re always hovering over your little one, you might be also preventing them from honing their skills. You want your child to learn at a young age that life requires perseverance, and that not everything is handed to you easily. And this includes choosing and making good friends. If your child has healthy self-esteem, he/she will also be confident to try making new friends. At the same time, he/she will have an uplifting character that also helps other people feel good about themselves.
One of the character traits that are essential for making good friends is being empathetic. However, you might be failing to foster empathy with the way you’re raising your child. How is that? Ask yourself if you are practicing authoritative parenting.
Most parents may consciously or subconsciously parenting their kids as an authoritarian, which is supposed to be authoritative. This is because authoritarian parenting does not teach your child how to empathize compared to authoritative parenting.
Authoritarian parenting is more on controlling and barely giving the child any affection. So as you can expect, a child raised this way will have a harder time being sympathetic and understanding.
You want to encourage discussion at home and not just blindly punish your child to correct a behavior. If the latter is the more common approach, you can expect that your child will have a hard time knowing what is right and wrong. And in the outside world, this will make it harder for him/her to create good friends.
People would be naturally drawn to someone who has a good self-control and shows sympathy to others. Therefore, it will be easier for your child to attract better friends if he/she is raised in an empathetic environment.
Some kids might need more guidance and help to foster this behavior, but it’s not impossible. Start small by teaching your child to read social cues and expressions around him/her. You can also set examples or explain why someone would feel bad or hurt if you do something wrong to them. These things might seem like “no-brainers”, but kids can always use our guidance in these areas.