Navigating the friendship circle can be a challenge with school-aged kids that are trying to figure out their place with friends. Additional classification of friendships add confusion when kids are sorting through this already convoluted social construct.
Who are my friends? Who is my best friend? How many best friends can I have? What if I’m not my best friends’, best friend? Who do I play with when my school friends are at my birthday party alongside my family 'friends'? How do I choose whom to play with at recess when I want to play with two friends and they both want to do two different things? What happens when my friends don’t include me? What happens when I don't have friends? What happens when my friends call me names and get me into trouble all the time?
Kids battle identifying their role in friendships and balancing their network of friends from school, community, activities and family. All kids experience some level of friendship conflict Formal ‘friend coaching’ is not something we typically teach our kids.
Their ability to handle themselves as they navigate this world is their own and they manage the hurdles they experience with some adult support at times when there is trouble. This experience is a natural childhood process. Kids will experience an emotional rollercoaster battling their emotions as they figure things out. It's all part of their childhood rights to sort through the friendship maze.
When do we as adults intervene? Should we intervene? Will my kids figure it out on their own? For most of us we either remember having a positive experience or a challenged one. Nonetheless we survived these experiences to reflect and share our stories with our kids.
We can certainly support our kids by supporting personal growth and confidence and helping them be comfortable in their own skin. The more comfortable kids are with themselves, the more socially comfortable they will be asserting themselves with others.
With those kids that need extra help, here are some ways we can help. Coaching, modeling, changing thoughts, beliefs and behaviour, providing children with guided opportunities, and teaching positive social skills.