Friendships

Making friends is an important part of development for children and adolescents.

Friendships help children develop emotionally as well as socially. Friends provide a sense of belonging that can contribute to a more positive self-image.  Studies show that children who have friends tend to have a better sense of well-being, higher self-esteem, and fewer social problems as adults.  Children who have trouble with friendships, on the other hand, are more likely to feel lonely, to be victimized by peers, and to have problems in school. And the benefits of having friends are lifelong; adults who had friends as children are healthier, have better relationships, and are less likely to become depressed.

Sometimes making friends is tough. A kid who’s recently moved may have trouble fitting in to a new social environment.  A young person might have poor social skills that are a result of some underlying cause, such as Asperger’s Syndrome or ADHD.  Trauma, disease, a bad family situation—there are many conditions that may make it more difficult for some mentees to make friends. 

Being accepted socially is important to all young people, and questions involving friends will very likely be part of your interactions with your young person. As the mentor relationship develops, you will get a feel for your mentee’s social skills and success in making and keeping friends. Your mentee does not need to be the most popular kid in school, but he or she would benefit from having at least one or two close friends.  If he or she has a hard time making friends, you can offer advice and encouragement.  Often the best way to make new friends is to participate in organized activities, like clubs and sports, so you might encourage your mentee to become involved in an activity that’s interesting to him.

Social isolation can be a tell-tale of more serious underlying problems, like those mentioned above. If your mentee seems really isolated, consult with your Mentor Advocate about what might be causing it and what you can do.

Resources:

 “How Kids Make Friends - and Why It Matters.
This is an excellent, well-researched article from the Boston Globe about the current state of the art of research on how kids make and keep friends. The author makes some surprising points: making friends is much more complex for kids than it seems, requiring skills many adults don’t have; being popular doesn’t guarantee having good friends; keeping friends is as hard as making them; and much more. This is a very useful article, well worth reading.

The Laws of Friendship
A good, short article with useful information about kid’s friendships.

How Children Make Friends
The title of the article probably could have been, “How Children Make Acquaintances,” but there are some ideas here about how adults might be able to help kids develop socially.

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