To the School Community
As mentioned in the Compass Post you would have received on Thursday I would be sharing my thoughts about Friendship and they can play out in the school environment.
As our children grow and mature the ground rules of friendships develop and change, some thrive on these changes and others take more time to navigate their way through the friendship maze. this means that finding meaningful friendships can take longer for some children to develop.
Learning the friendship ground rules can help us understand and support our children’s social and emotional development and most importantly so we can be there when they need us.
Friendship begins when children are babies. A child’s first best friends are usually his parents. By the time kids can crawl, they start meeting other kids. Early play remains parallel. Around age three, children become able to play with each other and form deeper friendships, although parallel play still continues. We see this with our prep students right throughout the year.
Moving through the years at school what we notice in year 2, 3 and 4 , friends take up a lot of children’s interests and energy. Their reliance on you for friendship starts to diminish and their peers seemingly become the most important people in your child’s existence.
Friendship is the ultimate satisfaction for children. Kids try to discover it themselves, and it’s incredibly important that they experience different friendship experiences to prepare them for making decisions about their friendships in the future. For our students many things in life are imposed — school, bedtime, what’s for dinner — but friends are something kids choose for themselves, which is a part of what makes them so special to the students.
Children maintain limited numbers of friends. Kids generally have a handful “important” friends at a time. And not all of these friendships will last, even when the parents are best friends.
Each child has his own friendship temperament. Your child may be naturally shy, naturally outgoing, or even a naturally strong character. Your child may like trios, large groups or being one-on-one. And your child may have a very different friendship temperament than you. While you can’t necessarily change your child, you can encourage him to stretch — a bit but always keep in mind their nature and personality.
Conflicts with close friends are inevitable. Tensions arise at every age and stage, but the ability to resolve conflicts independently develops as children get older. It is important that as the adults in their lives that we share with them strategies to resolve conflict and support them in building confidence in practicing these skills .
We experience more conflicts with close friends than with acquaintances which might be difficult to believe but if you think about it, you can usually get over what an acquaintance says, but what a friend says and does really matters. Children being motivated to work things out with their friends is an important disposition that will help them travel through the friendship maze.
Trios can be a difficult hurdle to overcome. It is a big developmental step to move from playing with one friend to playing with two friends at the same time. Often, there’s an odd person out, a trio sometimes tips over into conflict and disappointment. Therefore, some kids do very well in trios, but others prefer to be one-on-one or in larger groups. At our school we try to encourage students to broaden their friendships to minimise the Trio effect, unless it is a trio that is going smoothly.
Most children prefer to play with kids of the same gender in school. While babies and toddlers don’t generally discriminate over the gender of their playmate, once kids enter school, many prefer friends of the same gender. However, outside of school, many kids maintain opposite gender friendships. It’s important to encourage friendships with kids of the opposite sex. This is something to be nurtured and your child will value and enjoy it, particularly because they may not do this at school. There are some children who play in mixed gender groups that are often based around interests.
By age ten or eleven, boys and girls become interested in each other. As kids begin puberty, platonic boy-girl friendships begin to form. Socialising often occurs in groups rather than one-on-one. Girls often spend time talking about boys, who are generally a little more awkward and wonder how to relate to girls.
Experts in the field of relationships between boys and girls suggest that as kids approach puberty, parents should talk about relations between boys and girls and set up the right kinds of guidelines for social interaction. Inviting groups of boys and girls to your home (and maintaining a reasonable level of supervision) is a good way to encourage safe socialising that kids and parents will feel comfortable with,” notes Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D. At school female and male students are regularly learning together in different settings and scenarios during class time and through the Respectful Relationships curriculum and Positive Education Character Strengths we support children in developing positive relationships.
Many children experiment with social power. By the time kids are four or five years old, many unfortunately discover that excluding or teasing someone makes them feel powerful and they find this exciting. Kids also test their powers to see how effective they are. A four-year-old might invite a group to go to the swings and wait to see how many follow. A six-year-old might start the “I hate Josh club,” or tell other kids “not to talk to Marion today.” At ten, power plays occur over who has the most friends, or by influencing others to shift their friends from one group to another.
This is challenging both at school and home as despite it being an occurrence linked to development and maturity it can generate a great deal of negative emotion and anxiety for students and parents. Our role in this situation is to support children in understanding how their actions impact on others but also to build resilience and problem solving strategies to overcome the behaviours of those who experiment with social power. Some examples of how we tackle this are through restorative conversations and tools like ICI where a a student Ignores Confronts and then Informs when their strategies have failed and they need an adult to step in. Our Peer Mediation and Bystander approach has also made a great deal of difference in supporting students overcome the social power situations.
Children care about being popular and liked by others, but friendship rules. “From year 3 through to high school, being popular becomes important to many children. But friendship is the thing that lasts.
Instilling in our children that a friend wants you to be yourself and likes you for who you are is the most important message to combat their developmental desires to be part of their perceived “in crowd.”
As principal at BHPS there are many examples of parents and students who would like to discuss issues revolving around friendships. I encourage you to continue the communication about friendships with your child’s teacher or myself and Ms Booth. We are here to support the families in our community navigate their way through their children’s friendship maze.