10 Constructive Ways to Help Your Child Establish Strong Friendships at School

Rema Rajiv
May 21, 2021
Education Tips

Every day, as water moistens the soil and nourishes a plant's roots, the plant is replenished and grows further. Similarly, meeting one’s school friends every morning nurtures and nourishes a child to wade through the rest of the day. 

School friendships and peer-groups can play an indispensable role in a children’s growth and development during their formative years. Paul Schwartz, a psychology professor and child behaviour expert, suggests (as reported by Public School Review) that school friendship significantly contributes to the development of a child’s social skills. Moreover, through their interactions with peer groups, students also learn to be sensitive to others’ perspectives and communicate better.

A sense of security in students’ school friendships helps them establish a sense of belongingness and significantly reduces their stress levels. In turn, such factors can help improve students’ academic performance and boost their self-esteem. 

However, parents are often apprehensive about the negative impact of unhealthy social behaviour – such as bullying and ragging – on their children. Consequently, they cannot strike the right balance between genuinely nurturing and protecting their children and stifling their growth by being overprotective. To alleviate such situations, here are some beneficial ways in which parents may help their children make friends in a school environment:


1. Interaction Through Participation

Premier Montessori schools understand the significance of group activities and interactive sessions. Subsequently, they organise many such programmes such as plays and skits, debates, group dances, team sports etc., through which students can interact independently with one another under close supervision. Such activities also help students form coherent groups with a sense of purpose and a common objective. These aspects strengthen students’ integrity and help them become more sensitive to each other’s needs. Parents must encourage children to participate in such activities, coordinating with teachers whenever required and addressing any challenges along the way.

2. Let it Flow – Never Force a Friendship!

Parents often insist on their children always mingling with their peers to prevent them from being loners. However, just like every other aspect of life, friendships must happen organically and cannot be forced. Moreover, introversion is a personality trait and not a negative attribute to be rectified. Thus, parents must be mindful of students’ personalities and allow them to establish their friendships independently. The best bet is to provide a nurturing and conducive environment to them and allow them to express themselves freely if they choose to.


3. Each Person Matters: Fostering a Sensitive Approach

The foundation for any lasting association is positive regard for the other person and a consideration of their feelings. When students understand their peers’ emotional states, they can better respond in tense situations and solve any problems that may emerge between them. Parents must establish a sensitive and empathetic home environment, thus setting an example for their children to imbibe these qualities. Such attributes can help them empathise with others and foster long-lasting friendships.


4. Weeding Out Unhealthy Competition

Sometimes, to push their children to excel in academics, parents compare students’ scores with those of their peers. This comparison can cause feelings of hatred in children’s minds, preventing them from establishing close friendships. Parents must avoid comparing their children to their peer groups, instead acknowledging their talents and encouraging them to perform better for their own benefit. This non-judgemental parenting style boosts students’ self-esteem and increases their confidence in their abilities.

5. Addressing Your Child’s Negative Social Behaviours

Negative social behaviours like bullying and truancy can be quite difficult for parents to manage. Often, they try to curb these behaviours by punishing and reprimanding their children. However, such authoritarian parenting styles only suppress these behaviours at a superficial level. The best strategy to rectify such behaviour is to understand where it stems from – their innate fears and apprehensions that cause this need to dominate those around them or escape reality. For instance, bullying is the result of a constant need to reassure one’s worth, which, in turn, is caused by an underlying sense of low self-esteem. Providing them with the necessary support to facilitate self-acceptance can help mellow such children and eliminate such behaviours.

Also Read: How to communicate with Differently-Abled Children


6. Sensitising Your Child to Other Children’s Needs

Misunderstandings and fights often ensue between children due to their inability to understand their peers’ specific needs, limitations and challenges. Sometimes, children may not include their differently-abled peers in their daily activities and interactions, which, in turn, may lead to the latter being socially isolated. In such situations, parents must educate their children about their classmates' particular conditions and needs, facilitating empathy and harbouring positive social interactions. Parents of differently-abled children must boost their self-esteem by reaffirming their abilities and encouraging them to hone their skills.


7. Be There for Them, But Don’t Be Them

Being over-involved in your child’s social life can cause them to retreat into their shells and lose their identities. It always helps to be there for your children while respecting their need for privacy. Instead of being their saviours, empower your children to resolve their conflicts, providing them with the necessary guidance and advice when required. A welcoming but non-interfering home environment can help them establish healthy friendships and become independent.


8. Communication is the Key

The more we repress our thoughts and feelings, the more misunderstood we are. Communicating one’s apprehensions and perceptions can help alleviate misunderstandings and bring about greater clarity in friendships. Some practical ways to enhance a child’s communication skills are role-playing, mock interviews, language training sessions, and group activities. Premier Montessori schools organise these activities in the school premises and actively improve each student’s communication skills.


9. Setting Essential Boundaries in Friendship

While being there for each other is a crucial aspect of friendship, boundaries are essential to avoid codependency. Educate your children about the importance of setting boundaries and politely turning down requests they cannot fulfil. For example, a child may be best friends with their classmate, but both the children need not opt for the same extracurricular activity. In such cases, children may exercise their freedom and make independent decisions while supporting their friends with their choices.

10. Accepting Mistakes to Amend Friendships

Sometimes, due to ego tussles, children may find it difficult to accept and apologise for their mistakes. Parents must teach children the importance of taking accountability for one’s mistakes. Children must realise that apologising for a wrong behaviour does not make them inferior to the other person; instead, it helps them cherish and strengthen their friendships.

Conclusion

Having the right social support during their early years can cause a lasting positive impact on the rest of their lives. Moreover, such friendships often blossom into deep, long-lasting associations characterised by genuineness, compassion and mutual understanding. As a parent, a significant aspect of fostering such friendships is to allow your children the independence they deserve, even while being there for them to fall back upon.

Rema Rajiv

Ms Rajiv has been an Early Childhood educator and practitioner for the past 15 years at GIIS. She heads the Global Montessori Plus (GMP) Programme, supporting kindergarten students in their learning and holistic development to maximise the potential of every student. She has been instrumental in implementing developmentally age-appropriate curriculum that provides a strong foundation for lifelong learning. She is well-respected due to her rich experience in the field and passion for working with preschoolers, helping establish a good rapport with the parent community.​

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