Childline offers advice on childhood friendships

by My Kent Family reporter

Friends are the family we choose, so the saying goes, and childhood friendships have a big impact on our development and help shape the adults we eventually become.

As thousands of children across Kent prepare to rejoin their peers at school, Childline service manager Wendy Robinson looks at the issue of children's friendships and how best you can help your offspring navigate them:

As thousands return to school, friendships in the classroom can often be a concern to families
As thousands return to school, friendships in the classroom can often be a concern to families

When we’re young our friendships are our world and when children fall out with one another or have difficulty making friends in the first place it can be truly devastating for them.

Friendship issues are the sixth most common reason for children to contact Childline. In 2016/17 we handled 16,183 counselling sessions with children whose worries about friendships were affecting them so badly they needed support.

One young person who contacted Childline said: “I’m having problems fitting in with my friends. They ignore me and won’t invite me out anymore which gets me down. It’s been happening for a while now and lately it’s just gotten worse.” (Anonymous)

Concern over friendships is common in youngsters
Concern over friendships is common in youngsters

It can be hard to watch your child struggling but there are ways you can help them navigate the complicated world of friendships.

If they’re struggling to make friends, help them find children they have something in common with. Maybe they could join a club and get to know people they share hobbies or interests with.

Encourage your child to take up a new sport or hobby to perhaps meet new friends
Encourage your child to take up a new sport or hobby to perhaps meet new friends

Changing their routine can help them meet new people – suggest they try a different route to or from school.

Don’t forget that we communicate in ways other than words and our bodies can say a lot.

Encourage them to speak clearly and confidently but also smile and make eye contact. If they’re a bit shy, explore the Childline website together where you can find advice on how to start conversations.

Remind them the number of friends they have isn’t important. What matters is having friends that they're close to and who can support them.

If they’ve fallen out with friends, it’s likely they will soon make up again.

Encourage your children to think about their body language
Encourage your children to think about their body language

Let them know they can talk to you about what’s happened without fear of being judged. If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, there’s advice on how to talk about difficult topics with children on the website.

If their friend has upset them, encourage them to be assertive so they can talk to them about how they feel and hopefully resolve the issue. Suggest they think about why their friend might have acted in that way and try to understand things from their perspective.

If your child has upset their friend, urge them to apologise but make sure they’re prepared to give them time to forgive.

Whatever is happening within their friendships, it’s always best if they can talk to someone about it. If they don’t feel comfortable talking to you our counsellors are available 24 hours a day.

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