Happy Friendship Day 2018: Friends help a child discover a world outside their homes. Also, check out a list of friendship-themed movies to watch together!
By Ritika Jain
My daughter has a thick group in school, a quartet that looks out for each other and has stuck together through middle school. They meet outside of school for each other’s birthdays, celebrating by going for ice-skating or bowling at the mall. They are an active bunch, are good at academics and share common interests.
Most importantly, they are transitioning into young adults—going through the ups and downs of teenage, like you see in any coming-of-age movie. They have an intrinsic need to share everything with each other, even the most mundane of things. This is a bond each child should be encouraged to have. But sadly, in today’s time, parents don’t necessarily have the bandwidth to ferry their kid around for ‘frivolous’ activities, nor do they feel it’s safe for their kids to be out on their own. Even at playgrounds, you see nannies tagging along for playdates. It’s no surprise that a child who isn’t allowed to socialise becomes an oddity. Either he/she would be frustrated or be introverted due to social isolation. Being on social media and meeting another human being in person isn’t by far the same thing!
Friends help shape your personality
Childhood friendships are more important than people realise. They have a profound impact on a person’s personality, and are enriching by way of providing emotional support and comfort, teaching empathy towards another, building social skills by being fair and through sharing, and keeping one grounded. Some friendships are transitory and others are meant to last till adulthood. I see it as some kind of osmosis at play. People gravitate towards like-minded people. When kids are younger than seven years, they aren’t emotionally mature to understand how they feel about their playdate, which has anyway been set up by their parents. At a later stage, they start drawing from experience and develop their own perspectives. Things become more reciprocal and trust becomes crucial. That’s why, small kids make friends easily but aren’t as attached whereas older kids choose their friends and form groups that stay loyal to each other. It’s known that kids with friends have better self-esteem. It should also be noted that kids who have friends of both sexes rather than only same-sex friends are better adjusted individuals.
Teach them to make new friends
A lot of children who move constantly because they come from an armed forces background or due to their parents being in transferable jobs, may also feel the brunt of having to start over every time they join a new school. It doesn’t necessarily mean severing old ties, and in fact, can provide an opportunity to meet more people and make new friends. They do, however, need extra support by the family to go forward and ‘claim’ new friendships. One kid may be more outgoing and another may have more need for alone time, but parents must recognise when they are having trouble adjusting and provide support in keeping alive friendships that mean something to the child. Especially now that fewer kids have siblings or cousins, and ‘mohalla culture’ is fast disappearing.
Aarav, a six-year-old, has wisdom to impart. He says, “It’s important to have friends because if you don’t, you feel lonely and cry. If you have friends, you can go out and play.”
Kids who are constantly in adult company are in danger of starting to dissociate with their peers. Sarita Grover, a Math teacher says, “My daughter seems to be directly influenced by my husband’s absence of a social life. She makes friends selectively, and even these friendships prove to be unstable and fizzle out. I’m concerned but am at wit’s end about how to improve things. Maybe it’ll help if I enroll her in some classes.”
Don’t be over-protective
While parents tend to be protective and impose restrictions, friends challenge kids to explore their own limits and assert independence. Each has a significant role in a child’s life. So, keeping them protected is actually thwarting their social adaptability. Prachi Agarwal, educational psychologist and founder of Chalk and Chuckles, adds “Understanding your child’s temperament and respecting it while providing support is most important. Introverted children may have very few friends as compared to extroverts, but their friendships are deep and close. Quality is more important than quantity. For them, knowing the structure and duration of a playdate beforehand can put them at ease. Often, introverted children are seen to have a hard time initiating conversations or approaching new situations. They do so very cautiously. It’s important to respect their pace.”
Watch these friendship-themed films with your children:
(For kids older than 10)
My Girl: A girl discovers it’s good to have a friend who understands you, even if it’s a boy!
Stand By Me: Four young boys search for the body of a boy killed in an accident. They discover how cruel yet wonderful the world can be.
Beaches: A childhood friendship grows strong over the years.
The Goonies: A bunch of kids out to find a pirate’s treasure.
Bridge to Terabithia: A boy and girl create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where they reign as king and queen, and let their imagination run wild.
The Little Prince: An adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s philosophical fable— the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe.
(For a younger audience)
Finding Nemo: A timid clown fish befriends a blue tang fish, while on a search for his missing son.
Toy Story: A spaceman action figure takes the place of a boy’s favourite toy, a cowboy. And jealousy wreaks havoc in the nursery.
Charlotte’s Web: Pig befriends spider, and together they hatch a plan so the pig doesn’t end up as dinner at the end of the season.
Madagascar: Four animals escape from the New York Zoo and find themselves in Madagascar. Trouble is, they don’t know what life in the wild is like!
E.T.: A child helps a friendly alien escape Earth and return to his planet.
The Little Rascals: A boy’s girl-hating friends attempt to sabotage his relationship with the girl he’s wooing.
Chillar Party (Hindi): A gang of feisty kids in a building stand up for their unprivileged friend.