Forming friendships and keeping them

Playground conflict ... teaching your kids how to handle it.
Playground conflict ... teaching your kids how to handle it. 

It may have been awhile since you dealt with the dilemmas of playground politics but forming friendships and keeping them is a learning curve your kids are facing every day.

While school yard bullying is not a new problem it is an ageless one and now that technology has moved the humiliation of bullying from the school yard to the World Wide Web ensuring your child has a strong understanding of what it means to be a good friend is more important than ever.

So how do you teach your child what it means to be a true friend as well as preparing them for the unavoidable reality of rejection and conflict?

Child psychologist, Kimberley O’Brien highlights the fact that many parents are asking themselves the same question.

“Parents are worried about the child’s ability to manage playground conflict, regardless of age and gender. While girls are struggling to initiate contact with groups in the playground, boys are misinterpreting social cues and being excluded. All these issues lead to conflict on a daily basis.”

Figures reveal that these concerns aren’t unfounded, with one in six Australian children being bullied on a weekly basis. These instances of bullying are most often occurring in their own peer group, which leads us to the heart of the problem, teaching our children to relate to each other in a healthy way.

Quirky Kid is a clinic and website that offers specialist advice on a range of topics, as well as running programs and workshops that can help your child develop healthy social skills. Programs like, The Best of Friends, teaches children skills such as empathy, self-worth, rules of conversation and how to be sensitive to the viewpoints of others.

Another great resource from the Quirky Kid clinic is a book titled How to be a friend: A guide to making friends and keeping them. Written and illustrated by Mark Brown and Laurie Krasny Brown – the acclaimed creators of Arthur - this book reveals the ups and downs of childhood friendships and illustrates ways in which your kids can value and grow the friendships they have.

 “Giving children strategies to create inclusive, friendly playgrounds is an advantage for every school community, and this book can help”, says Kimberley.

Simply by relaying the reality of bullies and bossy kids in a relatable way can help your children grasp new concepts on how to handle those situations.

Another issue explored in the book is instances of friend envy. It is a common problem and at some stage your child will most likely face the pain of having their best friend stolen away by a more popular child.

 “Children can learn from early stages of social interaction the importance of sharing not only their toys, but their friends. Being flexible is an important social skill that children will carry with them well into adulthood”, says Kimberley.

By teaching your child how to deal with these situations early on you can help them to develop the social skills they will need to not only be a successful child but also a successful adult. Sometimes it helps all of us to be reminded of what a true friend actually looks like. Modeling this behavior for your kids is undoubtedly a vital part of developing the importance of friendship into their character.

You can get more information on resources from the Quirky Kid website and purchase a copy of How to be a friend: A guide to making friends and keeping them.