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We all get by with a little help from our friends…

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What would life be without friends? The ones you can confide in, that won’t judge you and the ones that you make memories with and take those selfies with that can bring a smile to your face on the darkest of day. Throughout our evolutionary history, the ability to make friends has been a crucial survival skill. It is a scientific fact that human beings can’t live in isolation.

Raising a well-rounded child is already a massive task, but one of the most important components is the one where children need to find their place in their school environment. The ability to make friends and feel important is probably the only and best way that children feel safe and happy in an educational environment.

Decades of research suggests that parents play a big role in teaching children how to make friends. The most popular kids are prosocial – i.e., caring, sharing, and helpful. They also have strong verbal skills and know exactly how to keep their aggression and bad habits in check. Making friends all depends on conversational skills, interpersonal skills and emotional control. This is something that all children develop with practice.

Parents need to be very hands-on when it comes to helping their children make friends in school and equipping them with the right skills. Here are some research-based tips that will guide you in the right direction to your child’s happy little heart.

Be an “emotion coach

This might sound strange and the question will come up time and again if emotional coaching will really help in the friends-making process? A recent study found that that the emotion socialisation strategies mothers used on their 5-year-olds predicted changes in how well their children regulated their own emotions. This, in turn, was linked with children’s friendship quality 2-5 years later (Blair et al 2013).

Be a parent first – not a friend

You don’t have to exactly be a fearful leader in your home, but being authoritative, will assist children in developing an internalised sense of right and wrong. There is a fine line between practicing harsh punishment and just ensuring that children stay in check. Authoritative parents tend to have children who are less aggressive, more self-reliant, more self-controlled and better-liked by their peers.

Teach your children to be polite

If you don’t teach your children to communicate at home, they won’t be able to do that in any other space when you leave them to their own devices. Parents can do more than engage children in the give-and-take of family dialogue. A number of experimental studies have reported that unpopular children improve their status with peers after they’ve been trained in “active listening” (e.g., Bierman 1986). The key to this is also ensuring that you organise regular play dates for your children. 

Few things have such a huge impact on happiness and the enjoyment, depth and plain fun of life as the friendships we have. You as a parent are the key to unlocking the door to your child’s ultimate happiness!


We all get by with a little help from our friends…


Inge Liebenberg




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