A lot of us growing up had clashes with our parents over the friends we had. Negative stories were told about what happens when we keep friends, some of us got beaten for visiting friends, who of course we never got permission to visit. Suddenly, we are expected to have friends as you are told ‘no man is an island’.
Worse is when applying for a job you are expected to have some of the soft skills only having friends would offer. Skills like communication, teamwork among all and you wonder what magic you are to use in developing such as you were never allowed.
For many young children, making friends is a herculean task, while there are others who develop these skills easily. Trying as parents to teach your child these skills can be difficult, as often times most parents are not with their children while they are interacting. In Nigeria, a lot of parents become frustrated at this dynamics and end up leaving the buck for the child to figure out. Or worse, they repeat the same mistake their parents did.
It is necessary to practice the skills with your children at home because the absence of such can lead to low self-esteem and loneliness. Many parents may, however, tell the children that they do not need friends since the family members are enough. This may be true but this would cause lack of confidence in approaching children, become extremely sensitive and may withdraw in group activities leading to the lack of team spirit.
Here are quick steps a parent can follow to help:
Teach children how to start an interaction:
This has to do with role-playing. This is the first social skill needed. How to enter a conversation or begin an interaction with other children is essentially paramount. Learning simple conversation etiquette, handshakes, the magic words, sorry, please, excuse me, thank you shouldn’t be left for the classroom.
Practice communication skills:
This may not always be easy but practice the kind of conversations you wish your children would have then reward them when they do the same. Things like introducing oneself, listening and waiting for the other person in the conversation before replying, taking turns in conversation, asking about the other’s feeling, showing empathy among other things would work.
Invite their friends to your home and provide careful monitoring:
Many parents have issues with most of their children’s friends. Inviting your child’s friends home indicate the kind of company they keep. If you can’t always be there to monitor, this is not for you. However, you can observe your child’s behaviour in large settings whenever you are opportune to. Most people have structured play dates these days so rather than leaving the time to play games and watch television you can set up interactions for them.
Collaborate with the teachers:
Ask for the classroom teachers’ assistance in ensuring the child’s active participation in a group assignment. Take out time to meet with the teacher to ask about your child’s behaviour in a large setting as the classroom as that is where the child spends most of his day in. Parents should know that a child’s behaviour in the classroom is different from the home.
Encourage positive talks:
“Nobody likes me in school, everybody hates me,” even if it may be an exaggeration, increase their self-confidence by giving positive compliments. “You are likeable”. What happens is that when they experience a peer’s rejection, there is an underlying thought that reinforces the incidence and so when your children get to talk to you about it, they are expressing their personal thoughts that they have spent years thinking about. So, giving and teaching them positive talks substitute the negativity and they grow with the behavioural mindset.
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This article was first published on 21st August 2017