Friendships are important to help children develop social skills and give them a sense of belonging and wellbeing. While they are very young, children tend not to distinguish between boys and girls and enjoy socialising with both. As they develop however, children learn that boys and girls are different and they generally start to gravitate towards children of the same gender. With the onset of puberty things change again and adolescents take an interest in the opposite sex once more.
This can be a scary time for parents, but it needn’t be. Contrary to what we read in the media, boys can have platonic relationships with girls. In fact, we should encourage it from an early age when the highly charged aspects of a romantic relationship are not in play. The ability to have healthy friendships with girls will be key to your son maintaining respectful romantic relationships later in life.
Regardless of your son’s developmental stage, it is important that he learns that boys and girls are equal, and every person regardless of gender deserves to be treated with respect. As quoted in Galatians 3:28. “There is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.
The confronting statistics overwhelmingly reference shocking violence towards women – in Australia the biggest preventable cause of illness and death for women aged 15 to 44 is violence by their partner or former partner. Increasingly, links are being made between disrespectful, misogynistic attitudes towards women and the prevalence of abuse and violence. Encouraging boys to have healthy, respectful relationships with female friends from early age, can help to address this issue.
If your son attends an all-boys school, it becomes even more important for you, his parents, to ensure your son establishes healthy friendships with girls whether or not they are of a romantic nature. But just how can you do this? Here are our six tips for encouraging boys to have healthy friendships with girls.
1. Start young
Provide plenty of opportunities for your son to mix and meet with girls of a similar age, and establish early friendships. If your son is continually socialising with girls from a young age and is comfortable in their company, he will be less likely to start romantic connections too early.
Teach your son what it means to be a good friend – encourage him to be compassionate, to take turns in talking and listening, to be kind and to be inclusive.
2. Model behaviours
Your son will take his cues on how to deal with girls from his parents and other adults he is close to. You should treat each other with love, respect and as equals. Avoid speaking negatively to each other and about others in the company of your son. Be careful about how you deal with conflict – try to speak calmly and actively listen to each other to reach a compromise. If you treat each other well and as equals, your son is more likely to maintain positive friendships with girls.
3. Show affection
When boys are little, we shower them with hugs and kisses – don’t be tempted to stop showing affection as your son matures. While he may not appreciate being showered in kisses or holding hands when he’s 13, there are other ways to continue showing affection through wrestling, hugging or even just sitting next to him to watch a movie together. Boys who receive physical affection at home are less likely to look for it elsewhere.
4. Become a myth-buster
Do your best to dismiss the stereotypes such as ‘boys are yucky’ and ‘girls are silly’ when boys are still young and continue to challenge stereotypes such as ‘boys are better at maths’ or ‘girls are better at art’ as they get older. As your son matures and establishes friendships with girls, he will be exposed to influences outside your control such as media, social media, and peer groups. Try to avoid teasing your son about girls, as he will be less likely to open up to you or listen to your advice. Maintaining open lines of communication with your son through frank discussions can help bust some of the negative myths, influences and perceptions about acceptable behaviour towards girls.
5. Encourage respect
It may sound obvious, but simply defining or discussing what a healthy relationship is can help your son to have positive connections with girls. Explain that a good friendship is based on honesty, trust and mutual respect where communication with, and support of each other is key. As a good friend, your son should accept a female friend for who she is, support the choices she makes and celebrate her achievements and she should do the same for him. Raising your son to respect women is key.
6. Offer tips on talking to girls
Particularly through adolescence, boys may suddenly become shy about talking with girls. Teach him the art of conversation – practise them with him (if he’ll let you!). Suggest that a good way to start is to ask a question and then really listen to the response so that he can ask a further question, before sharing something about himself. This sort of practise could help your son get past awkward silences.
Modelling behaviour is critically important in helping our young men to develop healthy friendships with girls and grow into respectful citizens of whom we can be justifiably proud.
Trinity Grammar School is fuelled by a pastorally aware culture with exceptionally high levels of individual student attention, and we pride ourselves on knowing, understanding and nurturing every student. We believe that:
- Being male is a matter of birth
- Being a man is a matter of age
- Being a gentleman is a matter of choice.
To learn more about the Trinity difference and how we help boys to realise their potential, passions and purpose in life, download our Prospectus.