Whether we like it or not, friends help our children detach from us and teach them how to socialize. And even if this detachment breaks our hearts, it is necessary for our children’s evolution.
The power of friends
Can we really choose our children’s friends? Up to a certain age, we certainly can since we make the phone calls to invite the friends over and we set the appointments. However, as soon as school begins, it becomes hard to keep an eye on their friendships.
If you have been the first influence on your children, their friends will become the first external influence. And the more they grow up, the more important their friendships will become. Their friends are a reference. Our children want to be like them, act like them, look like them, etc. How many times did your child come back from school saying new things that you already heard from another child’s mouth? But don’t worry; your child influences others too. The important thing is to dose this influence and to remind your child when needed, that they are capable of distinguishing right from wrong by themselves. Our children must understand that we may want to be like someone but we cannot become this person. Some children idealize the life of their friends (“They have three videogames!”, “They can go to bed later!” etc.) but they have to remember that they are lucky too.
The first lesson of friendship is to teach our children to socialize and interact with others. If at the beginning of elementary school, some desire to blend with the others is present, it is usually the high school friends that scare us the most. In fact, to be prepared, it is good to be interested in our children’s friends as soon as they have any. And being interested doesn’t mean asking lots of questions about this friend and their family but to find out why our child likes to be with that person. When you invite friends over, you can also see how they play and how they get along. “I realized that my daughter was doing everything her friend was asking her to do. Her friend decided all the time! For her, it was the right way of following my instructions: “You must be nice to your friend”. I talked about it again. In fact, I wanted her to understand the importance of compromising when a child wanted to play a game that she didn’t have at home for example, but I had forgotten the notion of self-respect. She must be able to get her point across and to decide too. In fact, I understood that I had to help my daughter understand the workings of friendship so that she would not forget herself and still be polite!” remembers Michelle.
It is therefore useful to invite the friends at home. We can learn a lot about our own children when we observe them and the way they interact with other. A lot of parents seem to prefer that their children stay at home and invite their friends. It probably comes from the fact that we can keep an eye on them and on their friends. It also shows our children that we accept that they play in our house, even if it means singing Avril Lavigne songs really loud or being more excited about Rock Band than usual.
There also comes a time when our child will want to go play at a friend’s or a neighbour’s house. It is perfectly normal to want to meet the parents of your child's friends, especially if they will be spending the day at their house. Driving your child over or talking to the parents over the phone can help establish a contact and reassure you. Give them your phone number. You never know, your child could forget it. With your child, set a time when they will come home and also set the means (for example, even if they come home by bike, ask them to call you before they leave).
My house, my rules!
When you are shocked by the behavior of your children’s friends, remember that this is your house and you are the one who sets the rules.
- Decide in advance with your children if their friends can stay for dinner or not. That way, you will not argue in front of the friends.
- Set times when they can play together (in your house or in their house). For example, on weekdays, children have to come back home for 5 p.m. (and their friends must leave at the same time) and they can’t go out later on but during the weekend, you can stretch it until 8 p.m.
- If your children are not allowed to watch television or play video games, stick to your rules even if their friends are there and… even if they protest.
- A friend is impolite in your house or they play violently? Don’t hesitate to tell them that this behavior is unacceptable in your house.
- Always ask for the parent’s phone numbers and mobile numbers just in case.