Tweens are incredibly tuned in to social relationships and as they get closer to the teen years, their peers become increasingly important. Whether they are an extrovert with a large social circle, or an introvert with one close friend, friendships will be a huge part of your child’s world.
We may be wired for relationship, but that doesn’t mean our young tweens will necessarily have the communication, conflict resolution and emotional skills needed to deal with the complexities of friendship. I can certainly remember how tough friendships can be when you are a young teen!
Giving subtle advice
Our tweens need our guidance to negotiate their social lives. There will inevitably be times they are excluded, have to deal with arguments, chose new friends, or feel inadequate or disappointed in their friendships.
Go for a walk or drive with your child and chat side-by-side. Talking side-by-side is great for kids as it feels less threatening (children are very sensitive to being lectured by us as parents especially as they get older!).
Take the opportunity to listen to them and gently coach them with suggestions, ideas or your own experiences to help them develop their relationship skills.
Socialised by going to school? Think again
Parents often mistakenly believe that their children will be socialised at school. Kids don’t learn social skills from their peers, they model and learn from the adults around them. Teachers try to teach as many social skills as they can, but you as the parent have a far greater influence.
How we talk to others, deal with emotions, and resolve issues becomes the model for our kids. They will look to you as an example of what to do and how to be with their friends. (If you need some help with social skills yourself try some of the advice from The Art of Charm. They teach social skills to men predominantly, but also great advice for anyone!)
Be a sounding board
Kids are fantastic at working out their own problems too. Act as a sounding board for your tween, listen to their ideas, and see if they can come up with their own solutions. Sometimes their ideas are better than ours!
Teach good social skills
Encourage empathy, putting yourself in the other’s shoes, and teach your children what good boundaries look like.
Teach conversational skills
Some children struggle with conversation skills. One way to teach this is by throwing a ball back and forth and using it as an illustration for communication.
When we ask an open question we are throwing the conversation ball to another person. When we answer with more than yes or no, we are throwing it back. Conversations need a back and forth like this to work. Yes and no answers or “hogging the ball” stop the flow.
Friendships can be a wonderful source of joy, fun, support and comfort for our children. Helping them choose and develop great friendships means they will have a wonderful support system as they head into adulthood.