Until your child starts school, who they spend their time with is up to you. You can decide which playgroups to take them to and which classes to enrol them in. As the mum of a toddler, I haven’t really given much thought to this topic, and to be honest, Taylor is usually the more feisty one so if anything I worry for the kids that choose to play with her! I do love watching her friendships develop now that she’s a little older and I can imagine that once she starts school, I’ll be very interested in who she chooses to spend her time with.
When kids get to school age, they’re suddenly thrown together with a bunch of children that you haven’t hand-picked as playmates, and this can add some interesting dimensions as your child finds new friends. Some you’ll love, but you may not be so keen on all of them. If your child suddenly strikes up a friendship with a boy or girl you don’t approve of, don’t worry – you’re not alone. In a survey carried out by Voucherbox, it was found that an astonishing 41% of parents dislike at least one of their child’s friends.
This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. We can’t like everyone all of the time, after all. Perhaps the surprising thing is that parents decided to admit it! We all encourage our children to be model citizens and get on with their peers, but it seems we don’t always practice what we preach. So what can you do to ensure that your child makes wise choices when it comes to making friends? The tips below should help you encourage your child to choose healthy friendships, without you being too dictatorial about who they spend their time with.
Inform and guide your child about friendships
Don’t imagine that your child will automatically know what constitutes a good or bad friendship. Children need to learn what to expect in friendships. They may be drawn to the loud and confident kids, but are they always the most fun or supportive peers to spend time with? Let them know that friends should treat them with respect, and not be too bossy. Talk to your child about how they should treat others and that they should expect their friends to do the same. Hopefully, they’ll be drawn to the kids who are kind, helpful and follow the rules.
Monitor who they’re friends with
If your child’s behaviour changes when they start school, it might be down to tiredness, but it may also be that they’re picking up bad habits from their new friends. In that case, what do you do about it? According to the aforementioned survey, 29% of parents decided to get involved and encourage other friendships, while 24% kept quiet about their feelings.
If you suspect a particular child may be having a negative influence on yours, invite them for a play date, so you can observe the two of them in action. It may be that you’ve misjudged the child and that they’re good company away from the hubbub of the school playground. However, if you don’t like the way the two kids interact with each other, you don’t need to repeat the experience.
It’s fair enough to remind your own child how you expect them to behave but crucially, don’t single out the actions of any particular child that you’ve observed behaving in a way you don’t like. Not only is it not fair, but your child may also repeat what you’ve said verbatim and get you into trouble with the child’s parents!
Make play dates for them
While you should make an effort to welcome their chosen friends, if they don’t seem to want to invite the kids you’d like to see them get closer to, take the initiative. Make the play date arrangements for them. You can’t force a friendship to develop if it’s not going to happen naturally, but you can engineer things so that it has a chance of taking off, at least.
While your child is in primary school, the daily contact you have with other kids and parents at the school gate makes it possible for you to help them become more discerning when deciding who to hang out with and also to understand what the characteristics of a good friendship are. When they go to secondary school, you’ll have far less day-to-day contact with their school world and the people within it. But hopefully by then, you’ll already have helped your child understand which kind of friends will bring them happiness – and they’ll be able to make good choices all by themselves, or at least learn from the bad ones.
What are your thoughts on child friendships? Do you try and shape your child’s friendships?
Tips provided by Isabelle Jones.