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Hot topic: Making Friends

Three counsellors give expert advice on how to make and keep friends

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Ola Galabuda and Donna Lawrence Elementary counsellors
How we make and keep friends is different for all of us – including children, who are just developing their friendship skills. In early developmental years, children learn from their role models: parents, siblings, peers and some adults with whom they have contact. They learn how to play, how to share, how to be comfortable in social situations. They begin to build the self-confidence and the resilience needed to handle disappointment.

As children get older, and friendships begin to get more complicated, they need a foundation of self-confidence to fall back on more and more. The trick for parents is to know how much help is enough, and how much is too much. Be a good social role model by being a risk-taker yourself. Expose your child to a variety of social situations. Make mistakes gracefully, showing your children it’s okay to make them, and how they can recover when they do. Demonstrate how to treat people with respect, how to be trustworthy and how to be assertive. Foster friendships by inviting people to visit and staying in touch.

If your children have a disagreement with their friends, model how to say, ‘I’m sorry,’ or ‘Can we work this out?’ Finally, listen to your child and try to not simply give them solutions. Instead, help them find answers themselves. The process will be more meaningful, and will help communicate your belief in them.

Ola Galabuda and Donna Lawrence are elementary counsellors at Western Academy of Beijing.

Naomi Taylor BACP-accredited counsellor
Friendships are never an easy area for teens, but think of them as an iPhone app. Starting a friendship is like downloading a new application: you usually choose an app because you are drawn to it in some way. Commonalities are a good starting point for friendships to bud, even though friends don’t have to always like the same things.

Unfortunately, friendships, like apps, have bugs and need regular updates and maintenance, especially when conflict occurs. When there is a problem, children should talk and listen to each other instead of trying – and failing – to guess what the other is thinking. Too many arguments start this way. They should definitely avoid sharing the problem on social networking sites – this spells disaster! If a friend asks them to keep a secret and they know from experience that they find that really hard to do, they should be honest about that.

Another problem is envy – we all feel this from time to time, but what people do with it is what counts. If friends have something that your teenager longs for, whether it’s luscious hair or the latest gadget, tell them not to let this become the focal point for that person. We all have differences, and just as your kids admire something their friends have, the chances are that they will have a little envy for something about you.

Naomi Taylor is a British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy-accredited counsellor for children and adults. Visit www.counsellingwithnaomi.com (VPN required).
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