Children are kindred spirits. When they get together, it doesn’t matter if they’re relatives who only see each other every few years or their parents are mere acquaintances – they’ll find a way to play together. They might even become friends.
Everyone wants the security that friendships bring. In school, you see this happening all the time. Friendships are formed among classmates, but the dynamics change just as easily at the end of the school year. Soon, these kids have to make another set of friends, which can be both frightening and intimidating. How can you help your child deal with these problems?
How to help your child navigate through friendships
Situation: Your child’s BFF is in another class
It’s quite normal for classes to get shuffled, and it’s highly likely that your child and her best friend won’t be classmates anymore next year (and of course, that’s a problem!). Assure your child that, one, she and her bestie are still going to remain friends even if they have different classrooms—they can play during recess or after school, and two, she can make new friends in her new class! Most everyone will be in the same situation, so they’ll be as eager to make connections.
There is beauty in having many friends, but kids usually want a permanent group they can identify with. If you see that she’s finding it hard to form stronger bonds, help her figure out why. Could it be that one of the girls is being bossy? Is one of them too sensitive? One possible reason is the wanting to belong. “Kids want their best friends to like and do the same things they do, and they feel hurt when they realize that they’re not identical,” Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, author of The Unwritten Rules of Friendship, told Parents. If this is the case, teach your child that being unique is also beautiful, and it doesn’t have to get in the way of her friendships.
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Situation: She’s caught between two friends
Sara Van Donge, an elementary school teacher in Washington, does not believe that a three-way friendship will work. “They’re more prone to conflict, and one child often ends up feeling left out,” she says. The solution is to include more people in the group to balance it out, according to her. “Bringing in one or two more kids changes the dynamic,” she adds.
Situation: Your child and her friend have drifted apart
During this age, friendships are still very fickle—kids don’t see each other as often, or they change interests. And that’s okay. She can focus on keeping her current set of friends. Says Kennedy-Moore, “You don’t have to try to preserve every school friendship. Instead, follow your kid’s lead.”