Making and Keeping Friends
Not surprisingly, students who develop friendships are generally happier at school and more likely to thrive academically. In some relationships a negativity bias can make students feel sad because they focus on an aspect of the relationship that did not go so well on a given day, rather than appreciating the interactions that were positive. Well known author, Michael Grose makes a number of suggestions regarding friendships skills that students need to develop.
There is no doubt about it – people who show respect are more appealing. As parents it is essential that we not only explicitly teach good manners, but that we model them as well. Consider the impact you are having if you speak abruptly to shop assistants, on the telephone, at sporting matches or when dealing with teachers.
Effective friendships require some compromise and sharing. We had an interesting conversation in an Upper Primary class recently regarding what we would do if there was one piece of birthday cake left, but 2 people who had not yet had a piece. I am pleased to report that most students said that they would cut it into 2 halves, but some insisted that they would eat the whole piece. As parents we often go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that our children do not need to share anything, but we are not necessarily helping our children to enjoy flourishing relationships with others.
Holding a conversation
Students need to learn to engage in conversation. I notice that sometimes when asking a child a question, the child doesn’t respond and the parent gives the answer. Try not to do this. Students need to learn to show interest in others through making eye contact (unless this conflicts with a cultural belief), asking questions respectfully and being able to appropriately answer the questions of others. They need to learn to resist the temptation to interrupt and to not just talk about themselves. In classes students have been learning about Active Constructive Responding (ACR), which comes into play here.
Winning and losing well
A desire to win is natural, but we need to not be too boastful or unaware of how your opponent might be feeling. Students need to maintain the relationship so that others will want to play again. As a parent it might seem easier to let your young child win to avoid a brief tantrum, but ultimately this is not in your child’s best interest.
Handling fights and disagreements
It is unrealistic to think that every moment of every day will be perfect. We will all experience fights and disagreements on occasions. The key, according to Grose, is to ensure that these do not lead to the breakdown of friendships. Strong friendships, like robust family relationships, not only withstand disagreements – they can actually grow stronger. Encourage your child to resolve friendship issues, and resist trying to fix the problem for them. Their confidence and self-respect will be given a boost from knowing that they are capable of solving their own problems. Savour the good times and as parents we can model showing gratitude for our positive interactions with friends.
St John’s Grammar School has a very thorough Wellbeing program and within this, Friendology teaches us 4 very important friendship facts:
- No friendship or relationship is perfect.
- Every friendship is different.
- Trust and respect are the two most important qualities of a friendship
- Friendships change… and that’s okay!
Working with the child’s class teacher enables your child to be poised for strong friendships now and/or in the future. Thank you in anticipation of fine role modelling,
Head of Junior School