What makes a true friend?
Navigating friendships is one of the experiences that tend to confuse children the most. When I asked my kindergarten students and kidYOUniversity parents (who answered for their children) to identify their biggest struggles in life, the answer was most often, "How to talk to my friends when things are not good."
This is huge, especially because such young children often have difficulty recalling unpleasant situations after they are over. Once they are out of it, they are over it. But, when they are in it...they are all the way in.
In fact, this reminds me of a moment I once experienced with one of my kindergarten students, who'd cried once reaching school. When I asked her why she was upset, she revealed that she was crying because she missed her mom. I then told her, "Well, you'll see your mom really soon." Her response to me: "But, I miss her right now, so I will cry right now." She totally schooled me, as children often do and taught me a major lesson that day: Feel your feelings. All of them. In the moment. Feel them. Acknowledge them. Then, move on- when you are ready.
What I also experience as an educator is very similar to what you probably experience as a parent or friend to children: Usually, if I want to get to the bottom of a certain feeling or issue, I need to ask during the moment, before it passes and all has been "forgotten." Of course, this is not the case for traumatic situations.
Yet, what I have witnessed time and time again is that hardships among friends often stick with children and are often conducive to creating anxiety or social phobias. In fact, research shows that one's friendships can have an impact on both their mental and physical health. Children in preschool who learn to develop friendships, have less stress and develop emotionally.
Friendships and learning to develop them are very important experiences for children's development and well being. But, how can parents help their children to make friends? Is it possible? Absolutely.
1. Practice makes perfect! That's right! Role-playing what a child could actually do when attempting to establish a connection with another child greatly increases the likelihood that they will make friends. One thing that I witnessed as an educator is that many of my students who felt that "no one wanted to play" with them, would actually avoid ever approaching other kids, unless directly invited. They'd created so many scary scenarios in their minds about what could happen by saying, or doing, the wrong thing, that they avoided opportunities to connect altogether. Practice fun one-liners with your child. "Hey! I can't wait for lunch today! Do you know what we're having?"
2.) Practice Full Communication. One way to really help children to develop friendships with others is to practice communicating your feelings with words and encourage them to do the same. Model asking intriguing questions. Regularly engage in "small talk." Show them the power of verbal communication. But, don't stop there. Body language is also important and helping your child to identify body language that indicates whether someone is engaged or would rather be left alone is a very useful tool. Practice "people watching" and discussing how the observed person may feel at that moment.
3.) Be a Great Wingmom. Whether you are a parent or someone who is helping a child they love to develop healthy friendships, assisting them in maintaining their existing school friendships is also key. Know who their school friends are. Invite them over. Really get to know them. Plan noncompetitive experiences that will help them to work together and bond even more. Their school friends spend as much time with them as you do during the school day.
In true KidYOUniversity fashion, we wanted to support you and your child in making new friends. We believe our mantra bracelets offer a great shared experience for your children and others they choose to gift them to.
Be sure to sign up here to receive new freebies every week!
Tips for using the Mantra Bracelets:
Remember, friendships are important and helping your child to develop them will help them to be happier, healthier people.