Every parent knows schoolyard (or homeschool group) friendships are important. Friends enrich our lives, boost our self-esteem, and provide the moral support we need when we’re memorizing multiplication tables. Developmentally speaking, making a friend in school is every bit as important as getting an ‘A’. Learning how to form successful peer relationships is a critical skill for kids, and one that they will be using—and refining—all their lives. Here are some useful tips for parents to boost their child’s relationship skills:
1. Make an effort to talk to your child about his or her day and interests:
Don’t be satisfied with one-word answers. Remember that you can build their relationship skills and that these are deeply molded by your own behavior. Often, parents have a lot on their plate and are happy to keep discussions brief, but children need practice in expressing themselves clearly and completely. What’s even more important, they need to develop trust and communication with their parental units. Make sure to point out when your child says something that is thoughtful or when he or she uses language skills appropriately.
2. Engage in a fun activity at home, such as cooking:
Ask your child to help make his or her favorite dish by following your directions, one at a time. Make sure to say “please” and “thank you” and acknowledge all of their efforts (remember, teaching by example is the best method). This will not only help him or her learn about the art of listening, but also teach your child about the importance of being polite to others, especially while working on group projects.
3. Help your child find solutions to his or her own problems:
A helpful approach is to ask good questions about what is their best course of action and outline the possible consequences. If your child did something inappropriate, maybe you can ask how he or she can fix it.
4. Talk to your child about friendships:
Ask your children who their friends are, and then ask them about the qualities that they seek in a friend. Likewise, ask how they like to be treated and if their friends’ behaviors are matched to those expectations.
5. The best way to teach is by setting the example:
Think long and hard about how you interact with your family and friends, and how you make and keep friends. Is your behavior setting a good example for your child? Are there certain relationships or areas that you can work on? Evaluating your own relationship skills is a crucial step in teaching your child about social management, and by being reflective, responsive and supportive, you are helping to nurture your child’s sense of social and emotional wellbeing.