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SHARE: 5 ways parents can help keep kids happy at school.

This post is sponsored by The Australian Scholarship Group

By BERN MORLEY.

Just over a year ago, my husband and I moved our three children 2,000kms away from the only place they’d ever known. Just for an added degree of difficulty we moved just as my 12 year old daughter was about to start her very first year of High School.

Now, as we all know, starting High School is hard even if you have the bonus of knowing half of your class. High School is basically a real life Mean Girls, so imagine how anxious I was knowing that my daughter was about to walk into that big bad world not knowing a single soul.

Luckily when we moved down to Melbourne, we moved into a large complex that had a pool and various other communal sporting facilities. One afternoon, we were sitting around the pool and I overheard one of the girls telling her friend that she was starting the same High School as Maddie.

So of course I took it upon myself to try and you know, make a friend for my daughter. Just like that. Not surprisingly this didn’t work out too well. Apart from the mortified look that was on Maddie’s face, the girl in the pool almost recoiled in horror at the “old” lady trying to set her up on a teenage play date. I quickly found that I had read the playbook ALL WRONG.

The boys were a different matter. Jack was starting Prep and was as fresh and as green as the next kid. Making friends is and never will be an issue for Jack. Keeping the good ones however, will be. He’s no wall flower is Jack and is known by most every child in his school. Not for all the right reasons I hasten to add.

Sam, well Sam has Aspergers. Socially, it’s already a struggle from the get go. To plant him in a school and just hope he makes friends is naïve at best. I won’t pretend, Sam has struggled tremendously to make friends at school. He just doesn’t seem to understand that talking ad nauseam about a prehistoric shark isn’t going to be the way to make friends and influence people.

So there you have it. Three very different children. Three very different school circumstances. And two very scared parents. Hoping, just hoping that they’ll all make at least ONE good friend. One friend they can count on. Because if they have a friend, half of the battle has already been won.

So how do you encourage and help your children to make friends in the school yard then?

Well as discussed above, it is not advisable you approach other children in public situations on their behalf. Experience has shown that this just makes them the kid with the weird mother.

Michael Grose, one of Australia’s most popular speakers and writers on parenting and family matters suggests the following to help your children make friends at school.

Parents can help their kids make friends in the school yard.

“Adults help children develop friendships by the quality of the relationships that they form with them. As the majority of children’s behaviours are learned from observation or through interaction, adults can have a significant effect on children when they display appropriate relationship behaviours

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There are five positive social attributes that adults can model when they interact with children that will increase that child’s ability to make friends. These attributes are:

1. Acceptance: When adults show tolerance for children’s behaviours and personal idiosyncrasies they teach children to be accepting rather than critical of other children’s actions, dress and habits

2. Attention: The quality of the attention children receive when they are in our company influences the way children interact with others. By calling children by name, listening attentively, making eye contact and giving non-verbal signs that display interest, you are modelling basic but essential relationship skills

3. Appreciation: Give kids positive feedback letting them know that you appreciate their behaviour and their attitudes. If a child is to show appreciation to someone else he first must experience appreciation from those whom he respects

4. Affirmation: Respond positively to your child’s more desirable social behaviour, while ignoring or responding with less enthusiasm to unsociable behaviour. When children share their toys or even a joke, make sure you respond in an appropriate way, thanking them for sharing and laughing at their attempts to lighten the mood

5. Affection: When we show children kindness or compassion or tell them that we love them not only do we model appropriate behaviour but we let them know that they are themselves likeable.

So, after a full year here now, I am happy to report all three children have some solid friendships with Maddie being the easiest of them all. In fact, I am counting down the days until she can get a job, get a car and drive HERSELF to all the social situations she seems to keep getting invited along to. I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that I encouraged her also, to find her tribe. To find a friend that gets her and one in return, that she gets. 

Jack, well Jack is everybody’s friend. Though, at first, he was a terrible sharer. There was an incident where he was caught trading his kisses for bites of girl’s icypoles. That *did* have to be dealt with yet we found through responding positively to him when he did do the right thing, he has now got some fantastic little friends. And has stopped the racketeering. 

Sam? Sam is a work in progress. But we are hoping he keeps the compassion and kindness that comes so naturally to him. And that the older he gets, the more his classmates will appreciate this. And that he can learn to veer off the topic of extinct shark teeth for at least half of the conversation. And that he’ll find that one little person that thinks, as we do, that he’s one of the most gorgeous kids put on the planet.

The Australian Scholarships Group (ASG) offers a proven and proactive way to help parents nurture and fund their children’s education. With a heritage of almost 40 years, ASG has helped more than 294,000 families and returned more than $1.6 billion in education benefits to Members and their children.  ASG also offers a wide range of resources designed to help the many day-to-day challenges parents face in providing their children the best education possible. For more information visit their website or check out the ASG blog.

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How do you help your children make friends at school?

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