Ever heard the saying ‘we have friends for reasons and friends for seasons?’
This might sound completely rational for a grown adult whose friendship with another person might have recently cooled, but for kids, losing a friend can cause anxiety and distress.
Childhood friendships fracture for many reasons, but when they do, children with hurt feelings often turn to their mums and dads for comfort and support.
Kids First’s Child Psychologists and Child and Family Clinicians have helped many children and their families deal with friendship issues. They have this advice for parents.
It’s easy to get upset and angry when your child arrives home with a story of what another child has said or done.
Before you reach for the phone to make a complaint at preschool or school, take a deep breath and encourage your child to do the same.
Reacting quickly, without much thought almost never ends well.
By avoiding the temptation to act on impulse and modeling self-control to your child, you are teaching importance life skills that will be called upon again and again as your child gets older.
In the midst of their hurt and anger, your child needs to know that you understand how they are feeling and that you ‘get it’. Use words like:
The empathy that you show your child by using this kind of language does two things:
As adults, we know that the only person we can control is ourselves.
But children are not mature enough to understand this concept, and so when your hurt and bewildered child comes to you with a friendship problem, this is an idea that you can gently introduce.
Use words like:
This can lead to a conversation about your child being responsible for their own reactions and behaviour. You might even want to suggest something this
Even when your child has a blow-up with their BFF and feels as though the world (as they know it) has ended, there are things that they can do.
As you help your child to work out their options, they may come up with some that are not so positive, such as:
While it’s natural for children to want to retaliate if they have been hurt, encourage other options as you brainstorm together, like:
This strategy of using brainstorming with your child achieves a few things.
If your child returns to preschool or school and the problem continues, it might be wise to have a quick chat with the teacher.
While teachers can’t control children’s friendships, they can monitor playground behaviour, and perhaps guide your child in the direction of other kids who might offer alternate play and friendship options.
Alternately, seek the support of someone who is ‘outside your emotional bubble’ such as a school counselor, child and family clinician, or psychologist. Sometimes, children take notice of other trusted adults and this allows you to be your child’s ‘cheer squad’ and not their ‘personal trainer’.
Written by Sonja Walker
© 2022 Kids First Children’s Services
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