Positive, accepting, and supportive friendships play a significant role in your child’s journey to adulthood. These relationships are instrumental in helping your child develop essential social and emotional skills, such as empathy and effective communication.

Engaging in activities with like-minded individuals can be incredibly fulfilling. However, it’s important to acknowledge that friendships can present challenges, and mastering the subtleties of social circles can prove to be quite intricate.

In Susan’s experience, as a psychologist who works with children and teenagers, she has identified several common friendship challenges:

  1. Exclusion: Many kids want to be part of a group, and being left out can be deeply distressing. Sometimes, children may not technically be excluded, but they still feel left out because they aren’t included in the friendship circle they desire.
  2. Bullying: Deliberate cruelty towards another child is a significant issue. Bullying can cause emotional harm and disrupt the social fabric of a child’s life.
  3. Changing friendships: Not all friendships are meant to last forever. As interests evolve or diverge, friends may naturally drift apart. It’s a normal part of growing up, but it can still be challenging.
  4. Toxic friendships: Toxic friendships often entail manipulation and peer pressure. They’re particularly difficult to detect because they may not appear as harmful as traditional bullying. Instead of fostering positive feelings of belonging and acceptance, toxic friendships can erode a child’s self-esteem and confidence. 

Given the complexities of these issues, children sometimes need support in recognising, managing, or ending toxic friendships.

Encourage your child to reflect on what qualities they value in a friend.

Do they appreciate someone with a similar sense of humour, a quiet demeanour, an adventurous spirit, or someone who avoids gossip? Help them understand that healthy friendships are characterised by mutual care, inclusion in activities, and respect. By discussing these traits, your child can work out which people might make good friends.

Encourage your child to consider what positive qualities they bring to friendships.

Are they attentive listeners, kind-hearted individuals, or have a good sense of humour? While it can be challenging for them to recognise their own strengths, it’s essential for them to understand the value they contribute to their relationships. When children develop a sense of confidence and self-worth, they’re better equipped to recognise and reject negative treatment.

Encourage your child to approach their friendships with curiosity.

Do the individuals they’re drawn to as friends possess the qualities they value? Are there people around them they might want to cultivate a friendship with? Encourage them to explore potential friendships beyond school boundaries, such as through sports, church activities, or local community groups. Broadening their social circle can lead to enriching connections with individuals who align more closely with their values and interests.

Listen to Susan Woodworth’s full chat with Bec and Norm below!