Let your kids find their own friendships, or interfere?

A theme that keeps resonating for me is how I project my own childhood experiences onto my children.

It’s obvious that Anna is well liked by her peers, but she hasn’t really made any good close friends. She seems mostly fine with it, and I struggle to not try to force her in to relationships.

I just read this blog post from a woman who was confronted as an adult by this other woman who claims that she had been excluded by her as they were growing up. The author remembers her mom trying to force her to be friends with “Nadia,” and always being annoyed that she had be be around her when she really didn’t even like her that much. Nadia, on the other hand, considered this woman her friend, and was so hurt that she wasn’t included all the time.

It really struck me that I have to let my kids develop their own relationships. In fact, earlier in the school year there was a dear little girl who was wanting to play with Anna at school. Our families are friends, but Anna didn’t seem to want to be with her at school. I couldn’t understand it, and talked to her about it a little. We talked about how it might hurt that girl’s feelings, but I was also concerned for Anna, wanting her to have “best friend.” Here was this girl ready and willing to play that role, and Anna didn’t want it.

I didn’t try to force it, though. Despite my urge to. Eventually, it seems to have worked itself out. The girls are friends, certainly.

But what is it that makes Eric able to walk on a playground and immediately find some kids to play with, and Anna is usually the loner? I know she wants to play with the other kids, but maybe she doesn’t know how to initiate the engagement?

I’m not sure if I should try to help her, or just let it happen the way it happens.

This weekend, we were at a birthday party that was like a big playdate. Super fun! Anna was running around with two girls, and I thought – “good! she’s made some friends!” But then I saw the two girls run one way, and Anna came  dejectedly over to me and said, “Well that’s not very convenient!”

Once I got my snicker under control over her vocabulary, I asked her what was inconvenient. Apparently, the girls had decided to go outside on the teeter-totter, and obviously there was only room for two. I suggested that Anna ask the girls to take turns with her so she could be included, which she thought was a good idea.

But I just don’t know how much to interfere, and what kinds of tools I should be giving Anna for dealing with these types of situations, or tools for making friends. Or maybe I shouldn’t do any more than I am. I don’t know. I’m fairly certain that forcing friendships won’t actually result in friendships, but how much can we expect kids to be inclusive so nobody is left out?

Any advice for me?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Let your kids find their own friendships, or interfere?

  1. I have often struggled in this area as well. I want my kids to find their “best friend” right away, but this doesn’t always happen! It may be that she is an introvert, which is fine, and she will find her way in friendships, but may never be surrounded by copious amount of convenient friends. 🙂 Anna reminds of Jonah at that age- he was a total loner. It may be that she is a little different (smarter, dare I say) than most of her peers and that can factor in to making it hard to find friends. It did for Jonah. I eventually talked to the teacher for him and she paired him with potential friends in class for partner time in class- and that helped. You also may want to try having a few play dates with girls she has mentioned. I have never been great at this I admit, but it can help. Sometimes though, you really see that the friend you invite over just isn’t compatible. Abbey is in the 5th grade and only NOW is making really good friends. Elie is in 3rd grade and has a little group- but it isn’t always easy. With girls there can be DRAMA. I guess the goal is helping her to have social tools so she will learn to be a caring, giving friend, and then let things happen. Being popular isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. 🙂

  2. Oy! I have the exact opposite problem. My son seems to want to hang out with kids who aren’t especially friendly to him. I’ve tried gentle suggestion, and outright telling him not to play with them, but he doesn’t seem to listen. I’m at a loss at what to do, too!

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