Kids Helping Kids: Teaching Children to be Supportive of their Peers
What does your child’s social life have to do with divorce prevention? Well if we consider that marriage is the ultimate incarnation of a relationship, it may be safe to assume that the social skills children learn from a young age through interactions with their friends could directly impact their ability to have a successful, happy marriage later on in life. These early social skills such as learning to express their feelings, and the ability to listen to others’ needs are important building blocks for all relationships. Even at a young age children are learning to communicate and be compassionate, or to close themselves off emotionally from their friends.
It is interesting to note that much attention has been placed on the subject of bullying among young people in recent years. The media covers incidents of bullying on the 6 o’clock evening news, and the heartbreaking stories of children that have committed suicide because of bullying have scared us all. So what about the other side of the coin? If the effects of bullying on a child can cause life-long emotional problems, shouldn’t the inverse also be true?
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If children were actively taught how to offer age-appropriate support to each other, what kind of long-term positive effect might this have on our children’s lives?
So how do we teach our children to be good friends? It can be especially difficult if we as adults don’t really know how to be good friends ourselves. Remember, nobody’s perfect but as parents we are the example that our children see everyday. It’s important to set a good example on how to treat friends, and others in our lives. Here are a few points that can be explained to children of any age and also be good reminders for parents.
1) Be Reliable: In today’s digital world of fake Facebook accounts, and chat rooms it is important to clearly explain to children the importance of their “word”. While it may have been a concept that children of the past easily picked up from watching others, this may not be as true today. Explain to your children that “keeping their word” is different than just being honest. Keeping their word means that they do what they say they’ll do. In essence; follow-through. As we adults know, follow-through is an incredible life skill to learn that is important in every relationship, and in particular marriage.
2) Be Concerned: It’s easy to dismiss a child’s emotions as adults, but to be hurting on the inside without concern from your peers is even worse. We can teach our children that it’s important for their friends to know that they care about their well-being. If a friend is crying, or clearly upset it’s important to try and connect with them. They are not supposed to be able to fix the problem necessarily. Sometimes a little sympathy goes a long way.
3) Say Thank You: We don’t say thank you enough these days. The ability to accept help, gifts and compliments is a lesson that many of us struggle with. By showing appreciation for these acts of kindness we acknowledge the other person’s importance. Everyone likes to feel appreciated.
These simple life lessons are easy to forget, and in our fast-paced modern society many adults have lost site of these concepts. The focus often becomes all about “I, me, and mine.” By showing our children how to treat their own friends, we can help them on the path to healthy relationships in the future, and possibly even help lower their chances for divorce.