In This Together

Helping your Daughter with Friends
Some of the hardest lessons children learn at school are about friendships. As adults, we know that just about all friendships have their ups and downs, and through our life experiences we have learnt how to deal with the disappointment we have all felt at some time in our relationships. But for children it can be really tough, and we know it can be heartbreaking for parents to hear their little girl talk about friendship problems she is experiencing. Instinctively, parents want to jump in and save their daughter by fixing things for her. But this could be doing more harm than good, because you can’t always be there! Parents need to be guiding their daughter through their friendships, empowering them with the confidence and skills they need to deal with things on their own.

The teachers and I regularly work with parents, helping them navigate their daughters through friendship issues. I’ll share some of our tips with you:

How to help your daughter make new friends
Not all children make friends easily, and even for those who do there will be times when her friendship circle will need broadening. Encourage your daughter to have a wide circle of friends, rather than one ‘best friend’. Few best friends last forever, and it can be gut wrenching for children when a best friend moves on.

  • Encourage your daughter to be pro-active in making friends, not wait for others to come to her. Encourage her to approach others and ask them to play or join an activity. Give her tips on what to do when meeting new people: to smile, maintain eye contact, introduce herself, ask questions. Practice with your daughter opening lines of conversations she could have when making a new friend; an opening line can be as simple as ‘What did you do on the weekend?’
  • Read stories to your daughter about making new friends. There are many available online, or speak to one of our librarians who’ll be able to help you.
  • Encourage her to be herself. Children will often adopt personas or certain characteristics hoping these will make her more attractive to new friends. It rarely works! What will attract new friends are honesty, respect, loyalty and kindness – encourage your daughter to embody these characteristics and when you see her displaying these, recognise it.
  • Encourage her to join co-curricular activities, after school or at lunch times. These activities provide children with a focus, at the same time as opportunities for social interaction, enabling children to make friends with others with similar interests. Team sports are a wonderful option, but there are also Music groups, and Art, Science and French clubs the girls can join at school.
  • Organise play dates after school, on weekends and during the holidays. While friendships can be made at school, many are fostered outside of the school day. But try and organise a mix of ‘free play’ and activity based play dates – a lot of pressure can be put on the ‘host’ child if activities aren’t organised, especially if she is struggling with friendships. And avoid having group play dates if the aim is to foster a new friendship; group play dates can backfire if sub groups form and the host can even end up feeling left out.

How to help your daughter when she’s struggling with friendships
There are all sorts of reasons why children struggle with friendships: a friend might say something mean, a child may feel left out of a group or a game, and friends move on and no longer want to be a child’s friend.

  • Help your daughter understand that no relationship is perfect, and that friendships change and that’s ok! These are messages the girls have heard through the UR Strong Friendship programme at school too.
  • Sometimes children’s struggles come from a place of jealousy – when a friend plays with someone else, when a friend achieves something your daughter hasn’t. Help her understand how she is feeling and why.
  • Listen to your daughter’s problem, and ask her questions to clarify exactly how she is feeling and why. Resist giving advice straight away! Ask her what options she has, problem solve together.
  • There are always two sides to every story; if appropriate to the situation encourage her to see things from both sides.
  • Help her learn how to recognise the difference between intentional and unintentional mean behaviour. Sometimes the girls can be over-sensitive! Help her understand that sometimes friends don’t realise their actions could be interpreted as being unkind. Teach her how to verbalise how she is feeling to her friends, in a calm way, so that they know how she is feeling and hopefully it won’t happen again. Role playing this conversation with your daughter can help.
  • Don’t make the decision for her (because she probably won’t take your advice if you do!) but help her recognise when a friendship may be negative and it’s time to move on and make new friends. Ask her if she feels comfortable with the friendship, if it makes her happy, if she can just be herself.
  • Please don’t contact the other child’s parents if there has been an incident or something has gone wrong with a friendship – this can make things worse! Always talk to us at school.
  • Encourage your daughter to talk to her teacher – they will be able to help her too!

Having positive friendships is so important for the wellbeing of children and we want all our girls to have the skills, confidence and independence to ride out the stormy aspects of friendship and enjoy everything good friendships bring. Please, do come in and talk to me, or any of your daughter’s teachers, if your daughter is ever struggling with her friends. We are here to help you, as well as your daughters!

Elizabeth Cumming
Head of Primary School