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Helping children understand the value of having the right people in their lives, starts by teaching them how to wisely choose their childhood friends. As parents, we care immensely about who our children socialize with and we can be quite passionate about who they choose to call “friends.” But getting them to make wise decisions about their selections can often times be challenging. Learning how to make friends solidifies the foundation upon which future relationships are built and can also help foster lifelong friendships. Here is 5 ways to help children wisely select their friends.
What does ‘friend’ mean? Understanding what “friend” means is the cornerstone of wisely selecting a friend. For children, this can be a confusing word because the natural tendency is to call any other child they interact with, a friend. Depending on the age of the child, help define characteristics and traits that a friend should possess. Help them understand that the qualities they possess should be mirrored in their childhood friends. It is important, however, that they understand that choosing a friend should not come at the exclusion of others, but that a friend should hold a special place in their heart.
Start off easy. Now that they have a working definition for ‘friend’ and are aware of the qualities that they should have, determine if any of the their classmates in school or daycare are matches. As you and your child begin to discuss the other children, make sure to point out what positive qualities each of them have. Your child will begin to internalize the meaning of the word ‘friend’ as they narrow down their selection.
Social groups. Sometimes shared values make for positive foundations of friendships. Children of similar religious faith, community involvement, or social clubs may have similar values that are also instilled in your child. Take the same definition of ‘friend’ and add more value based qualities, in order to help your child determine who best matches the definition.
RomCom rule. Just like in most romantic comedies where the one true love has been overlooked but was there all along, so could your child’s potential friend. Seek out those children who fit the definition of a friend but have yet to catch the attention of your child – sometimes they turn out to be the best type of friends. If these children meet the friend definition, try to uncover why your child might have overlooked them.
Be the example Most importantly, there is nothing as powerful as being the example for your child. Using the friend definition, evaluate your own friendships with your child. Helping your child understand how and why you became friends with the ones you have, can help them gain insight into the practical application of wisely choosing friends. And do not be afraid to discover how some you might consider to be friends, might actually not be – this vulnerability is good for your children to witness and it just might give you something to think about.