Making and keeping friends can be fraught for kids. Parents want their kids to have friends, but are sometimes torn between supporting their kids’ assertive strength, and helping them show their strength through kindness, cooperation, and generosity. In Growing Friendships, Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., and Christine McLaughlin help kids and parents think about options for navigating social rough spots from age six through twelve. In this delightful book, liberally illustrated with cartoons, the authors discuss behaviors and attitudes that can get in the way of having friends, including holding a grudge, teasing, trying to control, not sharing, acting like a sore loser, and crying easily.
One of the great strengths of Growing Friendships is its reliance on vignettes that encourage kids and their parents to think about different options available to them. For example, Chapter 9, “Contribute to the Team,” opens with a cartoon that shows a dad suggesting that his son Carlos put his name on a baseball sign-up sheet, and Carlos replying, “No, thanks,” even though he loves baseball. Carlos goes on to explain he’d be on a team with players who are older and better than last year, so he won’t go. The authors observe that Carlos is missing the point of being on a team, writing “Star players need the other players to help them do their best, and sometimes it’s a junior member who saves the day…Everyone on a team plays an important role.” They describe an approach to the situation that will help Carlos be happier than if he takes himself out of the action because he won’t be a star.
Wise parents wonder if they know enough about what’s really going on in their child’s life at school and elsewhere, to have an informed opinion about the best ways to support their child in dealing with tricky social situations. The authors show how to ask the kind of questions that help children figure out the best way to resolve problems for themselves. In the chapter called “Say No When Needed,” a cartoon shows a girl named Marla whose friend wants to trade cookies. Marla doesn’t want to trade, but is shown acquiescing to her friend’s request, and feeling unhappy about it. The authors discuss reasons people say yes when they want to say no, and point out how that can cause problems. They suggest several ways to say no, helping young readers decide what they feel most comfortable with. This and other ideas can be useful for parents as well as kids; I really wish I hadn't waited until my forties to learn this lesson.
I enjoyed the good-natured good humour throughout the book, and smiled at the cartoons showing a dog and cat talking about the issues. In the “Say No When Needed” chapter, for example, the dog says “It’s too bad humans don’t bark. That’s what I do when I want my cookies.” These cartoons add a lighthearted touch to what can be troubling topics for children.
I highly recommend Growing Friendships for all families. It is an empowering and good-natured resource to read through, or to keep on hand for friendship emergencies.
For more on this topic:
Dr Friendtastic Friendship Advice for Kids, by Eileen Kennedy-Moore
“The Laws of Friendship,” by PBS Parents
“Children’s Growing Friendships,” by Eileen Kennedy-Moore
“Learning Positive Friendship Skills,” by Kids Matter
“Acts of Kindness: Keys to Happiness for Children and Teens,” by Marilyn Price-Mitchell
Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids, by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster