It’s been the longest week ever. You’ve been texting your best friend all week about just relaxing on Friday, watching that new Netflix show you’ve been dying to see and eating your favorite takeout. After your commute home, you change into yoga pants and get settled onto the couch. Suddenly, the doorbell rings. You open up the door and see your best friend.
Friendships can be awesome, but they can also be complicated. For kids who struggle to understand the basics of how to be a friend, or what to do when things get a little more tricky, using books is a great way to start conversations and talk about friendship with kids. There are so many great books out there - here are some of my favorites divided up by category.
I recently found the website of Annie Fox, M. Ed., which is full practical advice for teens, parents and educators! Annie Fox, M. Ed. has written a new book for elementary school aged girls about dealing with friendship issues called Girls Q&A Book on Friendship. As a school counselor, I would have used this book all the time! This book answers questions that I was faced with on a regular basis. The social scenario for girls is complex and ever changing. This is a great book for girls to read to know that they are not alone, and gives them practical advice for dealing with real life situations.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a review of the book It’s So Much Work to Be Your Friend by Richard Lavoie. I absolutely love this book, and I wanted to focus in particular on one of his interventions that can help kids learn from their social errors in the moment - The Social Skill Autopsy. Addressing a social misstep and using it as a teachable moment is a great way to help kids identify what went wrong and what they could try again the next time.
If your child is trying to figure out who would be a good friend, or who would be a good peer to invite over for a playdate, start by talking with them about what to look for in a friend. There are so many different attributes your child might want in a potential friend, but they may not always be the best things to look for in someone. If your child is having a hard time making friends, they might say they’d like to be friends with the most popular child or the one that has the biggest, coolest stuff in their house. It makes sense to talk about attributes and characteristics they want to see in someone they’d want in a friendship. Here is a brief list of characteristics you can use as a starting point for a conversation about attributes in a good friendship:
One of my colleagues and dear friends recommended that I should read this book. I’m so glad she did. I absolutely love it! The central focus of this book is that “children with learning problems tend to struggle with social relationships”. The author gives practical advice and everyday ways you can help your child improve their social functioning. He recognizes that due to children’s learning disabilities, they may not be able to pick up on the social cues like other kids, so they need more direct instruction and guidance to learn how to interact with others and be a good friend.
Being able to have a conversation is an essential social skill to have. Your child will need to be able to start conversations if they want to get to know people, make friends, or play with others. It can be hard to think of things to talk about when you don’t know someone. Here are some ideas to help kids start a conversation.
Book Review: Best Friends, Worst Enemies Understanding the Social Lives of Children by Michael Thompson, PhD and Catherine O’Neill Grace with Lawrence J. Cohen, PhD
This book is a thorough examination of children’s social lives, from infancy through dating. The authors explore more specifics of how children develop friendships, manage and work through conflict, group dynamics, teasing and bullying. The only thing I think is missing in this book is that the authors do not delve too deeply into LGBT issues, and I think that adds a whole other dynamic to social lives, friendship and dating. Here are my highlights from the book:
Play dates are a popular way for kids to get together and hang out, but some kids struggle on play dates. If you think your child may have difficulty on a play date, it may work best to have a first play date with a new friend at your own house. Your child may feel more comfortable in a familiar environment. You’ll be able to keep an eye and ear out during the play date so you can step in if things start to break down. Here are some helpful hints when setting up and hosting a play date at your home.
This book has a lot of great advice for parents who want to help their children make friends. It's broken down into 12 sections, with each section focusing on a particular personality trait or behavioral characteristic (e.g. “the shy child”, “the little adult”, “the sensitive soul”). You don't have to read the book cover to cover, just pick the sections that pertain to your child and dive in.