Why it’s important to know your child’s friends

Children’s relationships with their peers directly affect their well-being. / Net photo.

Bosco Nkurunziza got the shock of his life when his 7-year-old daughter turned into a stranger overnight. Her kind and polite character had turned into a bossy one. 

She would command for what she wanted instead of making a request as before. Her responses were a bit rude and she had stopped eye-contact whenever they had a conversation.

 

His daughter had also started being a little harsh with her two-year-old brother. Even when he came to play with her, she would bark at him to leave her in peace and walk away. This behaviour worried him that he sat her down to understand what had happened.

 

All in all, Nkurunziza discovered that there was a force behind the new attitude and it was powered by the girl’s peers. She was in a group of bossy friends and that’s why she had turned into one. 

 

A lot defines a person, and the company that they keep is one of them. No parent wishes to see their children going astray through keeping bad company. But raising a child morally, physically and spiritually upright takes a lot of energy. 

Children’s relationships with their peers directly affect their well-being. A healthy relationship provides an opportunity to learn and practice social skills, and may establish persistent patterns of relating to others. 

“Parents should make it clear to their children that a good friend will make them feel good about themselves; if one of their friends doesn’t, they should reduce the amount of time they spend with them,” says Barbara Kantengwa, a teacher at APAPEC-Irebero School, Gisozi.

She also emphasises that regardless of the busy schedule parents have, they should spare some time, meet and interact with the parents of their children’s friends and see how better they can guide the little ones to have healthy friendships. 

Kantengwa further notes that parents can influence their children’s friendships by serving as models through their own social interactions and relationships by showing how friendships should be conducted.

“It is the role of a parent or guardian to model positive friendships. For instance, since children learn what they see, parents should also have their own friends over to the house and arrange outings with other families. They will eventually learn how to interact and act around friends,” she adds.

Kantengwa urges parents to encourage the young ones to entertain friends at home, allow them to have necessary fun but also leave them to spend time together doing their chosen activities.

Why do children need to have friends?

Child development and parenting experts explain below the importance of having friends. 

Creating friendships develops life skills that will increase the child’s wisdom, confidence and self-esteem.

Children will learn the meaning of true friendship. They will learn that a good friend will have their best interests at heart and have their back. Someone who is not their friend will not have these qualities.

They will also learn how to deal with conflict and adversity. Conflict does arise among friends and parents can find this as the perfect opportunity to teach their children how to navigate through conflict.

They will have peers to communicate their concerns, dreams and fears which will make them feel less alone and isolated.

When they become older, they will have childhood memories to fall back on- remembering how joyful it was like to hang out with friends.

Children playing together will learn to create interesting, collaborative activities but will also get a sense of building their own community when they establish new friendships.

The opportunity to develop leadership skills increases as children play with other children. The ability to make decisions is increased when children play with peers without micromanaging from adults.

Playing together also assists them to develop their imagination which is important for a child’s development. It also allows them to know how other families operate and they won’t feel shocked when faced with a family situation that is somewhat different from their own.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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