Can I help my child make friends?

Can I teach my child how to make friends?FIRST of all, let me be clear – my child is happy, well-adjusted and doing OK. Great report card and this adorable kid comes home from school happy most days. This blog post is about motherhood and the struggle we go through trying to give our kids not just a good childhood, but a freaking awesome one, and the things we do to ourselves in that endeavour. There were two birthday parties this weekend that my child was not invited to. So naturally that started me off on a fretting frenzy. Can I help my child make friends?

Why wasn’t my child invited? Well, obviously the birthday kids didn’t feel close enough to ask my child. Why not? Well, maybe they don’t play together very often at lunch time and at this age that tends to be the deciding factor. I don’t know in either case, how many children were invited, and that doesn’t matter to me. I also am not one of those mothers who thinks the whole class should be invited to a birthday party. I think once you get past five years of age, kids are old enough to decide who they want at their own birthday party. And I don’t bear the birthday children in question any ill will – or their mothers. This is not about that.

A Mother’s Worry

This is about me worrying about my child’s ability to make friends. This child of mine, unlike the other two, is introverted when in public. This child is shy and doesn’t love publicity.

We want our kids to have a happy childhood where every day is filled with fun and laughter. But if they don’t have that, can we mothers really do anything about it? Can we help our children make friends?

Marathon, Not a Sprint

Over coffee this morning, I got a bit teary about the thought of my child missing out on these two birthday parties and not having any friends to play with. My husband, himself an introvert who has chosen not to collect a vast array of friends around him, reminded me of the bigger picture. Our child is bright, resilient and happy. In adulthood none of our children will struggle to make friends and everything will be OK in the long run, he comforted me.

A Case of History Repeating

OK, sure, but what about right now? A friend-less childhood can traumatise someone, distort their personality and leave them stunted emotionally. I struggled to make friends at school and spent many a lunch hour in the library. I remember the pain of coming in after lunch and the other kids in my class were red-faced and laughing from an hour of fun and games, while I had spent the hour alone reading The Hobbit. I felt left out and I didn’t know how to change it. I don’t want that for my child.

On the other hand, if my child is happy coming in after a lunch hour spent playing chess in the school hall, then that’s OK.

Bros and Best Buds

I need to allow for the fact that my child is wired differently to me and may not draw support and strength from having lots of friends around, as I do. Unlike me, my child gets all the support and love from family. There is little need for making additional connections. My two sons proudly declare they are each other’s best friend and they tend to share each other’s friends, travelling as a matched pair. This has meant one of them hasn’t had to do much work forming friendships, just mooching off his brother’s efforts.

My Kids, Not My Clones

I will always want popularity for my kids. I will always want them to be well-liked and well catered to in the friends department. I can’t help it. It’s how I see childhood – that time in your life when you knock around with friends and have lots of fun all the time.

I need to get it through my head that even though I made these children, they are not replicas of me and their personalities are different to mine. What I want for them is not necessarily what they want for themselves. As long as they are *choosing* to not have a big collection of friends, then all is OK.

Is Something Missing?

My fear is that my child doesn’t know how to make the connections of friendship with peers. What if my child *wishes* to have been invited to these two birthday parties but wasn’t? How do I address that? How do I teach my children that friendships are important and more importantly how to form those friendships?

Can I help my child make friends?

I don’t know if it can be taught. I think you have to let them figure it out for themselves. I guess I don’t think I can help my child make friends. Sadly. I think maybe, all I can do is support my children and teach them resilience and how to have fun. Is that the best we can do as mothers? Is that what a good mother would do here?

4 comments for “Can I help my child make friends?

  1. Brooke
    June 30, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    I worry about this too! My oldest has started Prep this year and is loving it. I mean, really, loving. Every. Single. Minute. And yet – he has not found a “bestie”. Sure, he has some friends, but not a really close best mate. He often tells me “I just played by myself at lunch” and is quite ok about it. I think, “OMG! He’ll be friendless forever!!” But my husband feels differently – and I think this is where men and women differ. I really feel that my little one needs, not just a best friend, but a crowd of other mates to run around with and do whatever. Because as women, we value and nurture our friendships so closely. But my husband says our son is fine just the way he is. And if he’s cool enough with his company, that’s ok. And I guess I have to learn to live with that, although I will probably keep worrying – because we all think our kids are so awesome that we want everyone else to think that too!

    • June 30, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      I think you’re right, Brooke. Men and women see these issues differently. My personality is such that, when I see two birthday parties on Facebook that my son could have been invited to, and he wasn’t, I immediately go to the worst case scenario and start sobbing – oh no, he’ll never make friends and lead a lonely, miserable life and will die alone. The reality is, that scenario is highly unlikely. Still, it *might* happen. 😉

  2. June 30, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    I don’t think we can really help our kids make friends, but we can help them in developing social skills. And it seems there are many really important reasons why we should, including building resilience. (Oh the things you learn at Uni).

    • June 30, 2013 at 8:33 pm

      Amy posted a wonderful NY Times article on my Facebook page, Rachel, about resilience in kids and creating a strong family narrative. I’ll email it to you – absolutely magnificent reading.

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