Healthy friendships play an important role as children grow into teens and strive for more independence. Friendships can teach important life skills such as learning to share, compromise and set boundaries. Learning to make friends and when to end a friendship are life skills that can build as a child moves into adulthood where they may have more intimate relationships.
Being sociable and getting along with people are seen as important social skills. Most children learn the social skills needed for friendships by watching others around them. Some youth with disabilities may not pick up or practice these skills in the same way. Their social opportunities may be limited to a few situations and parents may worry that their child does not have friends. However, there can be lots of ways to encourage healthy relationships and some help and support can assist children and youth with making friends.
Jo is 12 years old and goes to the local school. She has lived in the same community all her life. Her parents love that she knows her way around, although the neighbourhood kids don’t really come around or ask Jo to hang out. Now Jo is becoming a teenager they wonder when she will start to make some friends. She has been with the same group of students at school in the assisted learning program all her school years and doesn’t really get the chance to socialize with lots of different teens.
Service providers can help by emphasizing the difference between being “friendly” and having friendships. Parents can remind youth that service providers are there to help and guide them, but not as friends.
- Honest and trustworthy
- Good listeners
Parents can help arrange time for youth to get together outside of schools and clubs. Perhaps youth can go to a movie, spend time at someone’s house or even take a trip to the mall.
For healthy friendships lesson plans on teachingsexualhealth.ca, click here.
Boundaries and limits about who they can online chat and message with can help.
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