Learning how to make new friends and keep them involves a number of skills every young person needs to understand and develop. For some these skills will come very naturally, allowing them to easily move between different friendship groups, sharing their experiences and opening up to new people. For others, this can be much harder to navigate. Belonging to a group that is like-minded with similar interests is highly beneficial to a young person’s wellbeing. It gives them a sense of security helping them feel valued which in turn builds their confidence.
Parents often worry about the friends their children make, or whether they are making friends at all. In such situations, it can be really tempting to be a helicopter parent and run to their child’s defence and try to fix the situation for them. Often this is not a helpful approach. Instead, really listening to what their child is experiencing, and showing understanding is a great first step. When someone feels heard and truly listened to, it opens them up to feeling able to problem solve. From listening and hearing what their child is experiencing, parents are more likely to get a feel for what is going on and whether the friendship issue is a temporary thing or something that needs more support.
If it is the latter, getting in contact with your child’s Dean or contacting one of the counsellors is a good way to start bringing about some change. Rangitoto College also has Youth Workers who work in a mentoring capacity with the students. They have a place for students to drop into at certain times throughout the day. This can help students build confidence in building connections with others, engender social skills where that is needed and be a place to meet with other students who go through similar experiences.
Positive friendships are an important part of the journey to adulthood. Adult carers can support their child or teenager by providing guidance in the many social and emotional skills required for a healthy relationship. This will help them to obtain, retain and maintain friendships. However, not all friendships are regarded as positive. Sometimes young people develop negative or toxic friendships. Therefore it is also important for them to learn how to identify, avoid or deal with such a friendship.
In SchoolTV there is a special report on friendships and belonging. In it, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg and other child and adolescent professionals reflect on the different questions that come up around this and offer some useful advice to caregivers. To see this special report click here.
If you have any concerns about the wellbeing of your child please do not hesitate to get in contact with the Guidance team here at Rangitoto College for further help or seek other medical or professional help.