Childhood friendships are proven to have a positive impact on a child’s well-being and confidence. They increase their positivity and their ability to relate to others. Additionally, these friendships provide fertile grounds for a child to further develop the social skills that are needed to navigate such relationships. As we all know, friendships have ups and downs and disagreements are inevitable. Therefore, it is important to teach children strategies to resolve conflicts. This will in turn enable them to have stronger friendships and more positive social experiences.
This is a theme I discuss in my book “The Palm Tree with the Sweetest Dates”. In the story, Ayesha participates in an art competition at school and her painting wins the grand prize. She is surprised after her win that her best friend Salama is jealous instead of being happy for her. Ayesha goes home sad because she leaves school without talking to Salama as usual.
Her father takes her to their date palm farm for a change of scenery. As they sit eating dates under the shade of a tree, he tries to console her by showing Ayesha her grandfather’s favorite palm tree and also explains the kind of care the palm tree needs for it to produce the delicious dates they were enjoying. Under the shade of that palm tree, Ayesha learns from her father the meaning of real friendship.
Here are some tips to help children resolve disagreements and strengthen their friendships:
- Teach children how to stay calm
When the disagreement occurs, it is natural for emotions to be running high. Children might not be skilled to manage these strong feelings, so it is important to teach them some relaxation strategies such as taking deep breaths or taking a walk with them.
- Teach children how to express and process their feelings
It is important to allow children to express their feelings. Listen carefully to them and guide the discussion through follow up questions. This will help them think out loud and work through the strong emotions to reach the main issue which is upsetting them.
- Teach children to be solution-oriented
Help children think about what is they can do to resolve the issue. This will likely involve them talking to their friend about their disagreement. This a great opportunity to help them see the situation from their friend’s perspective and to develop empathy. If an apology is warranted, then tell them that there is no shame in that.
- Teach them to expand their friendship group if disagreements persist
In some cases, if disagreements persist, it is important to encourage children to perhaps expand their friendship group. This can be done in a respectful way that allows both sides to grow and apply their learned lessons in other friendships.
Discuss strategies for resolving conflicts with your children- see what ideas they come up with. You might just be surprised!