From childcare to high school

From childcare to high school – what to do if you don’t like your kid’s friend

Friendship is critical to a young person’s development. Recent research showed teenagers with just one close friend were better able to bounce back from stress than teenagers without one.

But we also know about the high prevalence of bullying in schools and may have, ourselves, had a negative early friendship that has affected us well into adulthood.

So, if you suspect your child – whether they are in early childhood education and care, primary or secondary school – has a questionable friend, here are some tips on how to deal with it.

Early Childhood (birth to five years)

Early childhood education and care centres enrol children from birth to five years old. One of the learning outcomes of the governing Early Years Learning Framework is to teach and assess if children can “learn to interact in relation to others with care, empathy and respect”.

Educators work to ensure interactions with your child, and the other child, meet the learning outcomes.

Social skills are the main goal of education at this age.

Educators in childcare centres are legally required to take regular written observations to record, interpret, analyse and plan the next steps in children’s learning journeys.

These written records are of interactions between individual children, and in small and large groups of children. These should be available for viewing and consultation by parents and caregivers.

You can request educators to keep you updated on interactions your child has with friends. This includes positive, neutral and negative interactions as they are all part of your child’s social development.

When children are young, they may not yet have the communication skills to explain their feelings. Instead, they may bite or hit another child. Some young children will never go through this stage, and others may take a little while to develop the skills to use their words for positive communication.

If your child comes home with bite marks, or you are regularly receiving incident reports about these types of interactions with the same child, this might signal an undesirable friendship.

You could make an appointment with the centre director to collaborate on possible changes. They may be able to provide support staff in the room at certain times.

The centre may also help you to make a plan to relocate to another room in the centre. Usually this means moving up to the next room with a slightly older age group, when there is a space. – Laurien Beane

Primary school

Peers play a key role in a child’s cognitive, social and emotional development at primary school. These influences can be both positive and negative.

Is your primary-aged child more withdrawn lately?

Unhealthy friendships involve a breach of trust or damage to someone’s well-being. Some signs your primary-aged child may be dealing with a challenging friend is if:

Research shows children are less likely to display antisocial or risky behaviour when their parents are aware of their friendship network. Parental monitoring and supervision can also decrease socialisation with these unhealthy peers.

But overly intrusive parenting can undermine a child’s autonomy. This could make the child more aggressive or rebellious and increase their socialising with unhealthy peers.

Young people are more likely to disclose peer issues to their parents if you:

If open discussion and collaboration in solving the problem doesn’t work, or it doesn’t have a positive result, it may be necessary for parents to intervene.

Subtle intervention could involve limiting your child’s availability by filling in weekends and afternoons with activities like visiting relatives. Eventually, this distance may enable the friendship to fade or run its course in a less confronting way.

Direct intervention may involve banning contact with the friend, even if this means relocating to a different school or area. This may seem drastic but it may be a necessary course to protect your child’s well-being.

Research shows associations with unhealthy or bullying peers as a child can have serious long-term effects like lowering academic self-esteem while increasing the chance of poor physical and mental health and risky behaviours (including substance abuse and unprotected sex into adulthood.

Counselling may also be required to help the child work through grief, rebuild self-esteem and seek healthier friendships. – Natasha Wardman

High school

Friendships influence a young person’s development. Happy and healthy relationships between young people can make the transition from primary to secondary school more successful and help shape future trajectories beyond school, even future economic success.

If you are worried your teenager is struggling with a challenging friendship, there are some ways you can help.

Being an overly controlling parent could push your teenage son or daughter further away.

Research shows expressions of love and care, even if they are received with repulsion, will likely enhance your teen’s self-esteem and capacity for dealing with difficult friendships.

Saying “I love you” on a regular basis and showing physical affection can be a good habit to establish.

Research also shows parents remain the most significant influence through the teenage years. Parents might consider talking with their kids about what the family values and whether those values might align with the behaviours and actions of friends.

For example, if you are concerned about what your child’s friend said about someone on social media, you might ask your child questions such as:

Parents should also be wary of the dangers of overprotective parenting.

Usually, excessive supervision or intrusion in teenagers’ lives does not give them the chance to handle difficult situations competently.

It is usually a good idea to give teenagers some freedom in their decision-making and responsibilities.

You may wish to:

A calm, adult-like dialogue and modelling good behaviours are more likely to elicit an adult-like response from your teenager than forcing them to do something against their will. This is especially true for the choices they make in forming friendships. The Conversation– Michael Chambers

Read more:
Childhood shyness: when is it normal and when is it cause for concern?
Making friends in primary school can be tricky. Here’s how parents and teachers can help
Making friends in primary school can be tricky. Here’s how parents and teachers can help
Teens with at least one close friend can better cope with stress than those without
Laurien Beane, Course Coordinator, Queensland Undergraduate Early Childhood, Australian Catholic University; Michael Chambers, Lecturer, School of Education (Qld), Australian Catholic University, and Natasha Wardman, Lecturer, School of Education and Arts, Australian Catholic University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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