For the media

5 tips for kids on being a good friend

By The Health News Team | June 15, 2020
Teen girl on video chat with a friend

Watching your child struggle with friendships is one of the toughest parts of being a parent. Whether your child is bossy or shy, silly or spicy, finding true friends can be challenging. Add in a pandemic, and it becomes far more difficult to make and maintain connections.
Parenting guidance often tells us how to help our struggling children make friends, whether it’s signing them up for teams, troops or classes; calling other parents and arranging playdates; or talking to their teacher to see what can be done during the school day.
Unfortunately, this guidance doesn’t apply during stay-at-home orders, when kids are unable to be together in person or go to school. And for the kids who have a tough time in person, trying to make friends exclusively online just might feel nearly impossible.
What if, instead of making suggestions to the parents of struggling kids, we gave all the other kids tips on how to be a good friend? If they had better friendship tools to work with, perhaps other children would be more easily welcomed into inner circles and activities, and be given the extra support they might need during this really challenging time.
So, even if your kid is already captain of the team, king of the hill or happily one of a few in a tight-knit crew, it’s important to teach them how to be a good friend. This is especially true when many kids are stuck at home and feeling sad, scared or anxious about the things we’re dealing with during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ask them to try out the following tips. If they manage to build and maintain quality friendships during these tough times, those connections are sure to last through all the good ones, too.

5 tips for kids on how to be a good friend (whether we’re in the midst of a pandemic or not)

  1. Decide who you want to spend time with, even if it is only online. Some kids will put others down or leave them out to protect their own social standing and make themselves feel better. Unfortunately, this behavior doesn’t stop during a pandemic. It’s their insecurity that causes them to bully others or spread unkind rumors, not the fault of the one they’re picking on. Remember, if they’re saying mean things about another kid today, they could be saying mean things about you tomorrow. Stop that kind of behavior in its tracks, whether it’s during an online game, in a text or on social media. It’s never cool to be cruel.|

  2. Know that not everything is as it seems. Some kids may seem super tough, but that’s just how they act because they’re hurting inside. The kid that seems to have all the coolest new and expensive stuff — and doesn’t hesitate to brag or post about it — might also have things going on at home that are really hard to deal with. Or the kid that acts like he’s too cool to participate during a virtual class? He might just feel nervous about how he’ll look or sound online. Try to remember that everyone has challenges and, despite what it looks like, they might be worse than you know, especially as we all handle the significant struggles related to COVID-19.

  3. Do the right thing. It’s really as simple as it sounds. If you see a kid being bullied online or in a text thread, say something. If you notice that a certain kid is never included when you play virtual video games, invite them to join in. If you hear someone has been feeling especially sad or scared because of COVID-19 or had to cancel something important because of social distancing guidelines, let them know you’re there for them. Doing the right thing doesn’t only help the other person, it can make you feel great, too.

  4. Get creative with connecting. Because you can’t plan playdates or meet yet at the park, in a class or on a sports field, you have to use your imagination to come up with ways to connect. Leave surprise sidewalk art in a friend’s driveway, plan a video conference game night with a group, organize weekly online video games, or just start a new text thread asking for the funniest jokes the group members have ever heard. Don’t forget: some kids struggle to interact virtually. Try to reach out more than once — you might really be helping if they’re having a hard time dealing with the changes brought about by the pandemic.

  5. Use your powers for good. If you have a lot of good friends, it’s probably because you’re very likeable and a leader at heart. Use your likability and leadership skills to encourage those around you to reach out to other kids who might need a friend. Get involved in things at your school — even if it has to be online — that will allow you to connect with lots of people. Invite all the kids in your class to your next online hangout or participate in a drive-by birthday celebration, even if it’s not for a close friend. In short, be kind. If you set a good example, your friends just might follow and even pay it forward.

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