Connection and Belonging are Essential: Three Ways to Support Friendship
By Megg Thompson
I married a man that has one friend. Luckily, he married her! I, on the other hand, am friends with everyone. Strangers are only friends I haven’t met yet. We walk through life differently, not better or worse than one another, just different. Comfort level in social situations plays an important part. Being surrounded by other fuels me and forces my husband into a corner. Twenty years later I still make friends with everyone because I want to, and my husband prefers his one favorite girl.
Sometimes we metaphorically jump too fast, love too close, bask in TMI and don’t even notice. And then there are times we hang back, hide in the shadow, or press the mute button. So, we ask ourselves, who is going to be more successful? And the answer is…..deadlock tie. What? Can it really end in a tie? It sure can when we use these three ways to support friendship in everyone:
1. Enter, maintain and exit: 98% of the time a challenging behavior is a lack of skill or an unmet need. So, our job as parents and teachers is to teach a skill and meet a need. Sometimes that skill is how to enter, maintain and exit play and conversation. Belonging and connection are essential human needs and without them, we are in a deficit https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow. We have to teach children, especially, how to start a conversation, ask others to play appropriately, ask and answer ongoing questions to keep play going, and then figure out how to leave play and conversation when it is no longer fun. It is our job to teach the skill and then trust.
2. Social vs. Sociable: There is a difference between being social and being sociable. Social is when your preference is to be around many others. Being around others sparks you, fuels you, fills your interaction toolbox! Being sociable means that you have the skills to welcome others into conversation, but don’t necessarily need to be friends with everyone. We, as teachers and parents, want our children to have many friends or have a child that everyone likes. Be aware that our goal isn’t necessarily your child’s goal.
3. You can’t pick their nose: Picking friends isn’t always easy. We often see children that react like oil and water with one another. One minute they are getting along great and the next they can’t stand each other, but whether oil or water, they are often attracted to each other. How do we support their friendships when they are hard, unhealthy, or too comfortable? Giving children skills to stand up for themselves, use emotions language, teaching them to tell not tattle, find adults they trust to lean on, and build positive self-esteem.
Friendship can be life changing and humans need connection to lead full lives. Find your people, hold on to them and grow together.
Megg Thompson, a former teacher of ten years, is a Certified Behavioral Consultant and Certified Life Coachworking with children, adults and families. Megg is also the founder and filler of The eMpTy Toolbox. She spends her days in both public and private schools, childcare centers, preschools and in homes helping children of all ages be at their best. Megg lives on the beach in Hampton, NH with her husband, son and “will always be a puppy” chocolate lab. For more solid information and a dash of humor visit https://meggthompson.com.