Think about this: ‘Do you worry about your son more as a young adolescent than you did when he was a newborn baby?’ Research has revealed it is certainly the case for many parents in Britain, where seven-in-ten parents worry about the decisions their teenager makes. Much of this angst stems from the friendship choices our children make and a desire to see our children build positive, healthy and supportive friendships that will sustain them into adulthood.
Healthy, positive relationships help children grow into well-adjusted adults with strong social skills. According to the Raising Children Network, “Good parent-child relationships tend to lead to positive relationships with peers. So being warm and supportive, staying connected and actively listening to your child can help with the development of friendship skills.”
Here are nine tips for how to promote positive friendships for boys depending on the various stages of a boy’s development:
In the early years
1. Be present: In the early years, parents and carers take on the role of ‘coach’, helping your son develop the skills he needs to form positive friendships. For younger children, this means being present and ready to step in and guide them (rather than taking over), when needed. Examples include sharing instructions, helping boys to take turns, modelling how to help others, and teaching them how to express frustration or anger, without verbally or physically hurting friends.
2. Invite friends for play dates: Playing with other children helps to establish friendships and reinforce social skills. As coach, you can offer advice and help to structure play activities to support the development of new friendships.
3. Invest in your son’s friendships: Make your son’s friends welcome in your home and give them their space. Get to know his friends – offers of lifts to and from sporting/social activities etc. are a good opportunity for building a relationship and shows your son that you understand how important these friendships are.
4. Get involved: Most parents have been told they’re embarrassing or have been ignored in front of their son’s friends, but being involved in your son’s sport or other co-curricular activity shows him you’re interested in his life. Simply being around helps you to observe his friendship interactions.
5. Be a positive role model: Healthy friendships are characterised by mutual care, respect, honesty and compassion. Friendships are a two-way street, where we learn about talking and listening. Talk to your son about your friendships, and let him see you looking out for your friends.
6. Resist the urge to constantly ask about friendships: As boys move into adolescence and towards greater independence, concerns around negative peer influences tend to increase. It’s natural for parents to be anxious about peer influence, but it’s important to keep some perspective. You won’t always approve of your child’s friendship choices, but equally, many peer influences can be positive and supportive.
7. Monitor your child: Children mature at different rates. Be aware of how your son is maturing in relation to his peers so you can provide extra support if needed.
8. Praise positive traits: Praise your son when you see him being a good friend (fair and supportive). Encourage him to keep working on those traits and build his self-esteem.
9. Connect with your son’s friends’ parents: Teens can be unhappy about the restrictions placed on them by their parents. Make an effort to build relationships with the parents of your son’s friends so that you can be on the same page in terms of expectations, boundaries, and being treated fairly. Most teens will respond to reasonable expectations.
For parents, it’s important to recognise that by early adolescence, more than 30 percent of a child’s social interactions are with their peers, according to Raising Children. Friends will become more central in a teenager’s life, and positive, healthy and supportive friendships will help teenagers towards adulthood.
Trinity Grammar School’s proven pastoral care network involving 16 House groups and exceptionally high levels of individual student attention provides for every boy being known and nurtured.
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