Helping kids on the way to developing friendshipsPublished 5:09pm Saturday, April 28, 2012
QUESTION: When do children discover meaningful peer friendships?
ANSWER: The Parent Club book “Getting Along” identifies the ages of 7 to 10 for the beginning of “real” friendships. For the first time, children are moving in and out of many worlds: school, after-school clubs, sports, the neighborhood and places of worship.
Certain activities become associated with certain friends. There are the kids who always like to play sports, the ones who come with the latest video game, others who enjoy “playing school,” and some who like doing craft projects. Sometimes we can vary our child’s activities by encouraging a variety of playmates.
Friendships among girls and boys begin to differ during these years. Boys tend to form larger groups and be more accepting of newcomers than girls, play more outdoors and over larger areas and focus more on competition and dominance with lots of boasting, interrupting and contradicting. Girls tend to play in pairs or in smaller, more exclusive groups, spend more time playing indoors, or near home or school, and focus more on “getting along.” Particularly older girls want to “get deep,” with more agreement and self-disclosure than boys.
If you want to help your school-aged child be a good friend, teach your son or daughter the importance of: “I’m sorry.” This phrase covers a range of situations, from the most inconsequential, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to bump into you,” to the more serious transgressions, “I am really sorry I said that I hated you.”
Let your child know that everyone makes mistakes, and that those two little words can be the most important ones in a friendship. Apologies are most effective when they are specific and personal. We need to use the person’s name and describe what we did that we regret. We can talk about positive friendship skills. If we realize that gossip has become a form of information exchange, we can ask our child how she’d feel if those same words were being said about her.
What makes a good friend? Eight-year-olds think it’s someone who shares, listens and doesn’t just run away. A good friend helps you when somebody is picking on you. When you are sad, they help you feel better and play with you. Ten year olds think it’s someone who helps you with your homework and asks you over on weekends. A good friend is a person you trust and who trusts you.
If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434- 9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org.