Posted: 04 September 2020

Guide for parents to support children's friendships

As well as being unhappy with school and the way they look, children are becoming increasingly unhappy with friendships. 

Having someone you can trust and talk to when you're growing up is so important. It helps form identities, gain independence and can improve children's mental health. 

Through our Good Childhood research, we asked young people aged 8- 19 what adults could do to help them with their friendships, and also what they think doesn't help. This is what they said:

'Be there to listen'

Young people would like adults to be approachable and willing to listen when the young person is ready. If a young person comes to you, give them space to talk, but don't make them share anything they don't want to.'Sometimes it just helps to have someone listen to your problems'.

Don't make assumptions or deny what they're feeling

When a young person comes to you, listen and don't jump to any conclusions. 'It isn't helpful if adults think they know what's going on in the heads of young people. Adults do not always know the full picture'. If more than one young person is talking to you, don't take sides. 'Give everyone involved a chance to speak, get their point of view across, and be fair'.

Also, saying things like "it's not worth getting upset about" is not helpful. You must treat any worry as a serious problem, because it is serious to the child. 'It doesn't help when adult's belittle problems and are patronising when young people try and open up to them'.

'Try to talk to you both'As well as listening, young people also understand that adults may feel like stepping in. However, adults should not wade in without being asked, they should only intervene if absolutely necessary. Sometimes it can make things worse, especially if bullying is involved. 

Mostly, young people will want to sort things out on their own. 'I think if there are problems with friendships and nobody is being harmed by the problem, that adults should keep out of it.'  If you do want to act, possibly because of the young person's safety, then talk to the young person to work out the best way.

'Try and sort out the problems with us'

One thing that's clear is that all friendships are different and there isn't a magical formula to help everyone. However, we must do more to empower young people to build good and healthy relationships. Step one is to understand how important friendships are to young people. Listen and talk to them, reflect on your own friendships. Then, actively support their friendships. 

'Supporting your kids online friendships and supporting your kids' going to clubs and building friendships over there, hanging out wth those friends, that is what gets kids who are bullied at school through life'.

Read the friendship guide to parents for more information and tips from young people, including how meditation can help and contact information for further help.

If you'd like to find out more about the issues affecting young people's well-being in 2020, read our Good Childhood Report.

READ THE GOOD CHILDHOOD REPORT

By Clare Rowland
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