Friendships don’t just happen. Well, maybe there is that occasional friendship at first sight. And even then, in order for that friendship to grow and continue, there has to be an effort. When kids are little, parents make the effort for them by scheduling playdates or befriending other moms. As kids grow, we should be teaching kids how to take over the reins of their friendships.
What should kids know about attaining, maintaining, and sustaining friendships?
- In order to have a friend, you need to be friendly. A person who seems unapproachable will seldom be approached.
- Make the first move. Throw out a non-commital friendship feeler. Something such as, “Hey, do you want to hang out sometime?” or “Do you like to swim? I’d like to have you over to my pool one of these days.” Gauge the reaction. A positive one means that the next step is to follow up with an actual invitation. A lukewarm or negative one means that they aren’t interested at this time and to throw that feeler out to someone else. Keep working. Keep throwing. It will eventually catch.
- Keep scheduled playdates as much as a priority as a doctor’s appointment.
- If a friend cancels plans, it is then up to them to re-schedule. You may want to make a 2-strike rule, but a friend who cancels more than twice without re-scheduling is not behaving like a friend.
- There should be a balance of power in friendships. Both kids should have a fair shake at playing what they want to play or creating a plan for a playdate. One child should not always be giving in to another just to keep a friend. Kids can nicely but assertively speak up and say something such as, “We did what you wanted to do, so now it’s my turn to pick.” Friends who do not participate in give-and-take in a relationship are not willing to do the work of having a friend.
- Friendship takes two, or three, or more. One person cannot be expected to carry the entire load of keeping the friendship going.
If you want something badly enough, such as having friends, you can make it happen. It doesn’t happen by sitting home and moping about not having friends. It doesn’t happen by not talking to anyone in your class. It doesn’t happen by magic. It takes work.