One of the most common concerns of parents is that their child doesn’t have a friend. It affects parents of pre-schoolers through to teens starting High School. Transitions seem to be a pinch point. Do they have someone to sit with at lunchtimes? Are they lonely? Are the friends they do have a positive influence? How many friends does anyone need anyway?
- Temperament affects a child’s need to form friendships. An introverted child may need a cup-sized amount of social interaction whereas an extrovert wants bucket-loads. Both sorts of temperament are fine. Which is your child? Work out whether they seek out social interaction or if they have found something to do on their own which they find more interesting than socialising with others. Lots of parents tell me they haven’t worked out what makes their child tick yet. That’s ok – it can take many years to work out a child’s temperament. It’s worth investing time learning about temperament and what to look for and there’s plenty written on that subject. Be a citizen scientist and observe your child over time.
- Cultivate social skills. How do children get in and out of a friendship group at school? How does a child stand up for themself when someone bullies them? What would you do if your friend was being picked on? These are things you can role play with your child. Giving your child a form of words to say can make a big difference. Knowing how to act and what to say will set them up for success.
- Encourage your child to develop skills and interests and get really good at something. Sports and cultural activities are obvious ones and don’t overlook baking, sewing, woodwork or looking after family pets. Whatever your child is really passionate about can spark an interest-based friendship.
- Not all friendships happen at school so keep the out of school friendships with neighbours or former classmates going. There will be clubs in your area which take children from different schools and this is a great way to meet new children. Your child may be lucky enough to have a friend who is from a different generation. Neighbours, librarians and other people in the community can add a richness to all our lives. It’s the popping in to say “hi” that can really lift our spirits.
So how many friends do we really need to be happy? I reckon one good friend is enough.