Making and keeping friends is more important than many people think. Contrary to popular belief, there is a direct relation between friendship qualities and student achievement (Jones, et al, 2014). In fact, Reis and Youniss (2004) found on-going conflict with friends is related to lower achievement scores in children. So what do you do if your child has difficulty keeping (or even making) friends?
1. Be the child’s behind the scene “emotions coach.” Talk to your child about his or her feelings in an empathetic and problem-solving manner.
2. Use an authoritative parenting style. Teach your child through warmth and understanding while setting clear limits. When you shape your child’s social behaviors through rational discussions, they learn the reasons for rules and thus are more likely to demonstrate pro-social behaviors.
3. Remember communication skills begin at home. Research shows parents with good reciprocity in conversations have socially competent children with better negotiation skills (Feldman, et al, 2013).
4. Help kids read facial expressions and body language.
5. Teach your child how to deal with those uncomfortable or “sticky” situations. Talk with your child about specific situations and what to do. For example, practice joining in a group at recess or deciding who to sit with at lunch.
Finally, if these are not enough, seek the help of professionals trained to teach social understanding. With three convenient locations in the Houston area, Focus Academy offers after-school services for public, private or homeschool students. Call today for a free screening 281.240.0663 www.FocusAcademyHouston.org.
by Jacquelyn Mulkey, MA Executive Director, Focus Academy
Feldman R, Bamberger E, and Kanat-Maymon Y. 2013. Parent-specific reciprocity from infancy to adolescence shapes children's social competence and dialogical skills. Attach Hum Dev. 2013;15(4):407-23.
Jones, R. M., Vaterlaus, J. M., Jackson, M. A., & Morrill, T. B. (2014). Friendship characteristics, psychosocial development, and adolescent identity formation. Personal Relationships, 21(1), 51-67. doi: 10.1111/pere.12017
Reis, O., & Youniss, J. (2004). Patterns in identity change and development in relationships with mothers and friends. Journal of Adolescent Research, 19(1), 31-44. doi: 10.1177/0743558403258115