Friendship is a recurring theme we find everywhere in our society – books, television, movies, and songs. Thelma and Louise, Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, Ariel and Flounder, or Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez are examples of lasting friendships that a majority of the population are able to recognize. Friendships are celebrated and cherished in our communities, but what would have happened if Thelma didn’t have Louise?
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Watching our children grow and develop in an unforgiving world is hard, but close friends make the load easier to bear. As your daughters head back to school, friendships take on a vital role in their lives. If your child is struggling to build a social network, here are five ways you can help her foster lasting friendships.
Encourage your daughter to smile and talk to people.
Remember the old adage about catching more flies with honey? Smiles work too! It sounds simple, but this little act can be intimidating for shy people. Kindness goes a long way and a simple “hello” might be all it takes to start a friendship.
Not everyone is born a social butterfly and they need help developing friendship skills.
Help your daughter create friendships by coaching her on ways to be a good friend. You could read books or watch movies to begin a discussion about friendship and reinforce her knowledge of manners during a girls’ day out. Your daughter is watching you, so try to model empathy, good listening skills, and the importance of being yourself.
Parents can volunteer to aid in the classroom.
Try to be involved with activities at school and watch how your daughter interacts. You will witness firsthand the class dynamics at work. You will learn the children who are in her class and get to know other parents. Involvement will make it easier to invite friends over to play.
Organize a playdate or fun activity at home or the local park.
This will create a safe environment for your daughter to interact with her peers. It will allow her confidence to grow as she develops her friendship skills.
“After-school play dates can support socialization in many ways, [by allowing] social practice in an environment that may feel more forgiving than school,” says Barbara Boroson, a Scholastic author and autism spectrum educator. “Socializing can be much easier in one-on-one situations.”
Finally, parents should consider enrolling their daughters in an extracurricular activity to develop friendships.
Choose an activity your daughter will enjoy and thrive in. A lot of young girls enjoy dance, softball, or volleyball leagues. If your daughter is still hesitant, choose an activity that is not performance-based such as Girl Scouts, Youth Groups, or 4-H Clubs. Sometimes it helps for children to have friends outside of their classrooms to widen their social circle and reduce the worry about being judged at school.
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Parents need to value friendships over popularity. It’s important to remember children don’t need a lot of friends, just one or two close friends is sometimes all it takes. We don’t want children to worry or fail with friendships. The goal is that they bridge the gap from making acquaintances to truly developing lasting relationships.
“Luckily our children will grow up, mature, and develop the skills to make good friendships possible,” states Michael Thompson, Ph.D. “Even when kids go through serious social upsets, they heal from them, and will find new opportunities for friendship, love, and group acceptance.”
People often romanticize their childhood and remember only the good times. As parents, we often forget the times we struggled growing up. It wasn’t always play dates and rosy laughter, but our friends made the world a little bit brighter.
This school year, help your daughter foster close friendships without anxiety and feeling like you are falling off a cliff. All children will encounter friend problems as they mature. However, a little parental guidance can reduce the drama and tears.
Amy Williams is a parenting journalist and mother in California. With a daughter of her own, this subject hits close to home and she looks forward to implementing these strategies this school year. She contributes to the TeenSafe blog.