If you follow Rebecca Sparrow on Facebook (if you don’t, you totally should!) you may have seen her help a follower through a particularly tricky friendship issue their 14-year-old daughter was facing.
In short, it boiled down to said daughter feeling as though the dynamic in her close-knit friendship group had been thrown off by a girl who had recently joined. The girl in question didn’t have any other friends, but wasn’t necessarily ‘close’ with this group – she just didn’t have any other options.
It got us thinking about all the unique friendship problems our kids face – and how totally unequipped we are to deal with them.
While we wish we could keep Rebecca in our pocket on a day-to-day basis, that’s not realistic. Instead, we’ve come up with five important ways to teach our children to not only navigate the tricky terrain of friendship, but do it with kindness.
And we mean really listen. When your child comes to you with a friendship issue, try to give them your undivided attention – put your phone down, turn off the TV and hear exactly what they have to say. Ask questions and make sure you understand in order to get to the root of the problem. This won’t just help you help them, but will also demonstrate important listening skills that will be invaluable for your child.
Do not discount the importance of empathy, even when you’re helping your children from the sidelines. For one, it will strengthen your relationship with your child, helping them to feel heard and understood. It will also help you reflect on and draw from your own experiences, which could reveal possible solutions. Even just allowing your child to talk through the problem by providing an empathetic sounding board could help them realise the solution on their own.
Problem solving skills aren’t just relevant to your child’s maths homework. They will actually learn more about problem solving through their real-life experiences and relationships than they will in the classroom, so it makes sense to help them flex that muscle. Try to avoid stepping in and providing a solution – rather, talk through the problem with them to help them come to a conclusion that feels right.
Be a source of comfort
Sometimes, helping your child through a problem isn’t about actually helping them solve it. If you feel as though it isn’t your place to step in, or that you don’t have much to offer, think of other ways you can support them instead. Remind them to take time for their own self-care, tell them the things you love about them (including what a good friend they are) and provide positive distractions where relevant. You can offer them more help than you might think.
Trust your child
In some (admittedly rare) situations, there may be a place for you to get involved in your child’s friendship problems – perhaps another parent or adult has stepped in or you need to defend your child in a more serious way. Of course, you should communicate openly and positively with the other parties; blindly defending your child will do more harm than good. But, above all, strive for a strong level of trust between you and your child. Continue to talk to them and hear their side of the story, and let them