This is one of the most common reasons children come to coaching:-
- They don’t have enough friends
- They don’t make friends easily
- They are shy in social situations and avoid them
- They don’t have enough of the right type of friends
- They are bullied by so called friends
- They give in to peer pressure and struggle to say no
- They won’t do anything without their friends
- They are in a friend triangle (three is not the magic number)
Friendships are so important throughout our lives. We cherish our friendships and the importance of being around like minded people who share our values and we treat them as we wish to be treated.
Can your child spot a good friend?
Some children lack confidence or are unclear about what they look for in a friend. Recently at a Friendship Know How workshop, we put together a board of all the qualities that we looked for in a friend. (you can see it below). We also played Friendship Bingo to expand our thinking in terms of what a healthy friendship can give us. It got us thinking and we had fun at the same time.
Next we made a board of all the things a friend does not do. It’s important to be very clear about what we will or won’t tolerate from others. These are our boundaries and a healthy way to protect ourselves. I thought it was interesting how even though some children knew the difference between a good friend and a bad friend, they were still knocking around with ‘bad’ friends. This exercise definitely gave them food for thought and self awareness is the first step towards change.
Some children felt ‘stuck’ with a bad friend as they didn’t want to hurt their feelings by saying no to them (even though the so called friend was being particularly unkind).
Confidence helps find strong + healthy friendships
Some children are drawn to bullies or stronger personalities like a moth to a flame. Their tolerance for mistreatment is high and they are unable to stand up for themselves. They become soft targets for bullies who are emotional vampires and feed off the powerful feelings of having control over another. The analogy I use for children when coaching is that inside of you, in your heart and tummy shines a pink light. It is because you are full of love. Bullies are not. They are empty and want to steal your pink light. You mustn’t let them have it. You must stand up and be strong.
We zip up our power suits to protect our pink light and ourselves. We became strong and powerful like Super Heroes. We would not fall prey to a meanie. We were better than that and after all, we knew that they were just miserable inside and didn’t like themselves very much 🙁
Words are only 7% of your communication
We also did role plays and learnt the importance of body language. How we stand, our facial expressions, our tone of voice. We learnt how to communicate with others without saying a word. This did make us giggle as we realised we could be quite scary and intimidating to others. We didn’t even have to shout. We didn’t have to engage in a conversation with somebody who wasn’t being nice to us. We could just walk away. They weren’t having our pink light. No way!
On another note, as a parent think about how when you are speaking to your child, that they probably don’t listen to what you say but instead just watch your facial expressions and body language. When I’m coaching I’m very conscious of my body language as I know how that affects my client – head nodding, eye contact, leaning in and showing interest.
I’ve recently noticed (when it was pointed out to me by my Coach) how I have a tendency to give myself away with my facial expressions. I then started to observe my body language in other situations:-
- In the new gym class, I stood at the back as my posture apologised on my behalf for being there
- The grimacing facial expressions when I was talking about something good that I had done
- The smile that didn’t quite reach the eyes when I wasn’t being authentic or honest
- The uncomfortable no when I didn’t want to do something which was easier hiding behind email or text
- The tension in my shoulders and clenched jaw when I’m frustrated or angry
Do you know if your body language gives you away? Even if you don’t wear your heart on your sleeve like me, your body language creates an energy that other people can pick up on. In particular your child with their sixth sense. My coaching voice to the children I worked with is echoing in my head right now.
‘Stand tall, smile. Pretend you are OK with this situation even if you are not.’
I think this is commonly known as ‘Fake it til you make it.’ Remember your brain doesn’t know the difference between what you think and what is real so you can trick it into believing that you can do something. If you act with ease and self-assurance, your inside will eventually catch up and synchronise with your outside.
How to help your child with friendships
Here are 10 top tips to help you and your child with their friendship hiccups:-
- Reinforce values that are important to your family – honesty, loyalty, kindness, sharing or whatever they may be. Have them written somewhere at the heart of your home where everybody can see them and remember them.
- If there are films or TV programmes that demonstrate lessons to be learnt around friendship, use those as conversation starters to take the heat out of a real situation that may be troubling your child. I’m discovering that a big reason children don’t want to share with their parents is because they don’t want to let them down. It’s also easier for them to talk about tricky situations if they are referring to themselves as the third person.
- Don’t dictate who your child can and can’t spend time with. Controlling our children is a parenting myth anyway. Trust that they will come to their own conclusions and guide them by highlighting how these people are making your child feel and that the idea of being happy is to feel as good about yourself as possible. Ideally, you want to be with people who make you feel good. Doing it this way will help them to trust their own inner judgement. There maybe some tough lessons here but learning them with your love and guidance will get them past it.
- Encourage your child to be their true selves and not People Pleasers. Watch yourself, are you one?
- Help your child to learn to say the word no and to be on the receiving end of it (rejection is not about them, it’s about the other person). 95% of the time other people’s behaviour is not about you. It’s about them and their stuff.
- Help your child to respect themselves and what is important to them (people who trample on them or don’t listen to them are not respectful).
- Lead by example: mention how you dealt with something friendship related in a positive way and ask them for their opinion.
- Talk about when you were at school and how it was for you making friends. Share your experiences and the things you learnt.
- Encourage your child to handle their friendship dramas (unless they are being badly bullied) for themselves. You are not going to be able to pop up from behind a bush in the playground and defend them every day. Even though you want to protect them, you are not doing them any favours by stepping in and rescuing them.
- Teach your child that people come and go from our lives and there is a reason for this. We learn things about ourselves from everybody. There is a lovely poem about this that I share when I’m coaching.
“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”
― Elbert Hubbard