Finish this sentence: The most important moments of my day are…………………………… As parents filling in that sentence can change depending perhaps on the day of the week. But most middle schoolers know the answer is the same 2/47!

Your child would say emphatically, “my friends are the most moments in my day!!” What kind of a question is it anyway because those of us with middle schoolers already know the answer. As our tweens move from childhood toward teenage years, it is all natural to pull away from mom and dad and establish supportive relationships amongst their peers.  Friendships in middle school can make or break everything else in their life; grades, sports, family life and just their general mood. What can parents do to help tweens make and keep their friends? We can have an influential role but being matter-of-fact is the key to our child accepting our advice. We want to help our kids to make the healthy friendships which encourage them to be comfortable within themselves as well as be a good friend. Check out some tips for us parents:

  •  Be an ear to your middle schooler more than a mouth. Listen all the time as he talks about sports, classes, the bus, parties, the cafeteria, the things he thinks are funny but you may not. Our listening ear shows our kids we care and can be a trusting ear instead of critical mouth. But as you listen you may pick up some clues into the friends or what the friends are into. Kids change as we know during these middle years. One long-term elementary friend may have gone into dangerous behaviors. Spotting a not-so-good or dangerous friendship before it becomes your child’s problem is our job as parents. Reinforce friendships with kids that have the same interests or activities as your child. Encourage your child to invite a few friends over after school or on the weekends which is a sure- fire way to observe their friendships. Often by just having his friends over, the friends themselves will ‘weed out’ the not-so-nice child as they all interact in the non-school atmosphere of your home. Peer pressure works both ways.
  • Don’t push popularity. You may have wanted to be in the “In-click” in your tween or teen years, but don’t allow your unmet needs to define your child. Part of allowing him to make decisions about activities and friends is to promote a responsible, Godly, and other-oriented young person. Feeling good about themselves will create a mentally healthy, giving, and productive adult.Have some down-time going to lunch or a movie with your middle schooler. Going on a fun ‘date’ will allow you and your child to discuss and share about their friends.
  • Help her find her way with what it is to be a friend:  Gossiping destroys friends and breeds mean children and a bad reputation. Ask her to ask herself: What is it she likes about her friend? What do each of her friends have in common? Role play: “If your friend needs some help with homework what should you do? How can you encourage a sad friend? If someone is rejecting your friend what would you do? Remember their birthday, send a card or an email. At a sleep over who helps your friend clean up the mess everyone makes?
  • What do others see when they see your tween? Do they see a positive influence of a girl with good ideas and happy attitude? Dressing clean and taking care of personal hygiene is very important and should become habit by middle school. Smiling and being friendly and standing up for your friends when things go bad for them is what makes a good friend.
  • Most everyone at some time has had friends that turn out to be a “frenemy”; The type of “friend” whose words or actions cut down your child. (whether they realize it as intentional or not) The type of child that your child should let loose of but keeps making excuses to themselves: ‘oh they are nice at some point- maybe tomorrow they will be nicer…but turn out to tear down again and again. It can be very upsetting for anyone much more so for a middle schooler. A real girlfriend will boost her friend’s confidence and self-esteem and focus on being there for her friend. They don’t second guess every decision she makes or make her feel badly about herself. But no matter, we as parents can help them by sharing our own frenemy story from our past and remind them that there are always real and lasting friendships around the corner! Remind your child to find a friend is to be a friend once again.

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