Making and keeping good friends can be challenging for children, especially if mobility or communication needs make it harder to take part in social events outwith school.
Children will be learning about friendships within school RSHPE and that good friendship forms the basis of healthy relationships. Not all young people will be interested in romantic relationship at this stage, but it is still useful for all to have an understanding of the ingredients of good friendships.
Start by establishing what makes someone a friend.
You can refer back to the Circles diagram and discuss what makes the friends different from the other people on the diagram?
If your child struggles with this or you do not think they have a friend, you could do it as a ‘fantasy’ exercise – draw and write a picture of your ideal friend; what would they be interested in? What would you do together? How would it make you feel?
This short film shows a situation where people are not being good friends:
For older children, ask them to think about their online friends and compare them to their offline friends – what’s the same? What’s different? It can be helpful to discuss appropriate information sharing with children who do most of their socialising online. Might your child share an inappropriate level of personal information with someone they really don’t know anything about?
This is a two-part film that shows children why you need to be careful who you share information with:
Online safety - part one
Online safety - part two
The difference between liking and loving
This is another abstract concept that can be tricky to help young people understand.
You could use the Circles model to help your child to match people in their inner circle with the feelings they have for that person.
Explain that the love/strong feelings you have for a parent or close family member is a different kind of love to fancying/being attracted to someone. Show some of the feelings cards like ‘heart racing’ and ‘butterflies in the stomach’ and ‘flushing’ to show the physiological response people can have when they see someone they fancy.
This film shows a lighthearted take on how these feelings can make people behave in a goofy way:
It can be helpful to discuss fantasy attraction vs. realistic attraction with your child. List the features of each, e.g. fancying a movie star or someone you know that is much older Vs someone the same age, same interests who you already know as a friend. It is important to help your child understand that they can’t ‘make’ someone fancy them back and that they have to make sure they are not harassing the other person.
This short film gives an example of this: