Making friends is an important part of childhood. It seems like some kids have more friends that they can keep track of, some have a few-but lifelong-friends, whereas some children struggle to make meaningful connections with their peers.
In today's tech heavy world, making those meaningful connections and relationships is harder than ever. We, including us and our kids, are more technically connected than ever. We can communicate with anyone around the world at an instant. This is a good thing.
However, technological connection can preclude real human connection. A child's ability to make friends now, will also impact their ability to relate to the world in the future.
In my view, we all have three kinds of relationships, all of which can be both positive and negative. We have peer to peer relationships, near-peer relationships and what I call plus-minus relationships.
A peer-to-peer relationship is straight forward.
A plus-minus relationship is any relationship where there is a larger gap in age, knowledge or experience: teacher-student, parent-child, master-protege, etc...
Finally, near-peer relationships have also have a gap in age, knowledge or experience, but that gap is much smaller.
All of three of these relationships develop a child into a well rounded person.
Children today are inundated with plus-minus relationships but are lacking in peer-to-peer and near-peer relationships. They go to school and come home and get on a electronic device. Even homework is prescribed on an electronic device! How can we say these devices are bad if they are being encouraged in the plus-minus relationships?
However, through these same or similar devices they are able to communicate with their friends without really connecting.
Kids don't have the same opportunities to associate, relate and play with each other as they used to. Younger children used to go out and play together. For that matter, even when they played video games they used to do so in the same room. That is increasingly no longer the case. Pre-teens and teens used to be eager to establish their independence and leave the house to get together with friends. That is also no longer the case.
Interestingly, it is these supportive peer and near-peer relationships that fosters independence, risk-taking, and resilience in the future. And, without those relationships we see many of those qualities severely lacking in young adults (millennials).
Naturally, the solution I recommend is martial arts classes.
Martial Arts training is a great equalizer for both children and adults. The martial arts studio is agnostic to the participant. The mat doesn't know about age, gender, status, intelligence, wealth etc.
Everyone starts as a beginner, a white-belt, as the "new kid".
As such, martial arts communities are extremely supportive. Most, if not everyone, remembers what it feels like to be an absolute beginner in a new place.
The martial arts community also contains all three types of relationships: peer, near-peer and plus-minus. And, there is opportunity to develop all three. Students will work and play with their peers, they will learn from near-peers and plus's. Finally, they will have the opportunity to become a near-peer mentor or a plus themselves.
In addition to joining a martial arts program, here are nine more tips to help you children make more friends.
- Be an emotional coach
- Practice authoritative, not authoritarian parenting
- Teach them how to communicate politely across mediums
- Use story to help them see the world through they eyes of others
- Educate them on reading non-verbal ques
- Monitor their social life (as appropriate) both on and offline
- Give them tactical ways to approach a group they may not already be a part of
- Let them fall and get back up, let them learn how to cope
- Create an awareness about bullying for them and you
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