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How to Help Your Logic Student Build Friendships

The middle school years are some of the toughest.  They are awkward years of trying to find your place and often feeling uncomfortable in your own skin since there are so many changes.  This also begins a time in your child’s life where the way their peers view them matters more than their family.  In elementary years, and then again after high school or college, what family thinks matters the most, but in middle/high school years, peer feedback is paramount.  For some, friendships come easily.  For others, it is challenging.  Here are some tips for helping your logic student build solid friendships during this time in their lives where they are so vital.

  1. 1. Build confidence.  Help your child be confident in who God made them to be.  Point out their strengths.  Encourage them when they work hard.  Building confidence will help them enter social situations with confidence, which in turn earns respect from others. 
  1. 2. Teach social skills and cues.  Engage in conversations about what is socially acceptable and what is not.  Share stories of social norms you learned while growing up.  Discuss what you should do in key social situations.  For example, what should you do if some other kids are talking together and you want to join the conversation?  What should you do if a friend ignores you?  What should you do if you are texting or calling a friend and get no response?  How should you respond if someone starts a rumor about you?  How should you respond if a friend comes to let you know something you did upset them?  If you see a missed social cue, use it as a teachable moment.  “Did you see how Sally backed away from Chris?  Do you think it was possible she felt he was standing too close?”  These are all things we have to learn as we grow, but the more they can be prepared for these situations and the less they have to learn the hard way, the better! 
  1. 3. Teach them to be good conversationalists.  Help them to be active listeners by making it clear that they are paying attention.  Some ways to do this are by making appropriate eye contact, orienting the body in the direction of the speaker, and making relevant verbal responses.  Help them know how to ask a follow up question to what someone has shared to show they are engaged and interested.  When starting a conversation with someone new, tell them to trade information about their “likes” and “dislikes.”  Help them to not merely ask questions but to offer information about themselves as well.  It’s also important they aren’t dominating the conversation. When engaged in conversation, they should only answer the question at hand and when done, give the other person the chance to talk.  Again, these are cues we learn as we mature, but practicing and learning them at an early age will give them a social upper-hand.  
  1. 4. Talk about friendship.  Ask them what they feel makes a good friend.  Talk about what can damage a friendship.  Remind them that not everyone has to be your best friend.  Some friends are good to laugh and have fun with.  Others are good when you need someone to talk to.  It’s also ok to prefer to have just a few close friends instead of a large social circle.  Friendship looks different for everyone and that’s ok.  The key is knowing how to be a good friend, how to make good friends, and being happy and secure with the friendships you have.
  1. 5. Teach them empathy for others as well as how to express remorse and make amends when they misstep.  The ability to take responsibility when they hurt a friend, empathize, apologize, and also share their own feelings in a non-attacking, relationship building manner will set the foundations for healthy friendships and relationships for years to come. You modeling this in your own friendships also helps.
  1. 6. Encourage extracurricular activities.  Being involved in sports or a team or club allows them opportunities to connect with peers that share their interest outside of class.  There are many other benefits from being involved in sports (confidence, team work, respect for authority, commitment), but building friendships is a great benefit.
  1. 7. Create opportunities for them to spend time with friends.  Invite their friends to come over to your house.  Offer to drive them to the movies or Sky Zone.  Providing them opportunities to spend time with friends outside of school helps deepen friendships which then carries back into the school.  Having friends from outside of school (neighborhood, church, clubs/community sports) is also a great way to engage and make friends with others.  An added bonus is if there is stress or a feeling of rejection in one social arena, they have another to engage in and feel accepted.  
  1. 8. Be a safe place for them to land.  Learning social norms, gaining confidence, and becoming who they were created to be is hard.  There will be hard days where their friends will say something unkind and it will weigh heavy on them.  Let them know you are there to listen without judgment.  Remind them that people say things they don’t mean when they are upset and try to build them back up.  It’s also important to not talk negatively about their friends if at all possible.  These are people they have chosen as friends and they feel are somewhat an extension of them.  If you disapprove and talk negatively about them, it may cause them to side with their friends and in turn create distance in your relationship.  Voicing any concerns in a loving, conversational manner and coaching them on how to respond or react in difficult situations will keep them engaged in their relationship with you and they will continue to come to you with problems and ask for advice.  Even though their peers’ opinions are paramount, they will still appreciate your unconditional love and acceptance and need it more than you know!