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  August 21, 2014
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Friendships at School: A Primer for Parents

"Ashley's not my friend anymore! I hate her!"   Whoa, before you go off on a tirade because your six year old used the word hate, take a minute to find out why she is feeling such a strong emotion.

Good, bad or ugly, friendships at school are a magnificent necessity in your child's development.   As a parent, it's your duty to foster that development.  Since the day your baby was born, your first responsibilities were to feed and protect your young.  That started the bonding process – the needed link for balanced development.

Watch the motherly instinct that surfaces when a mom finds out someone hurt her baby, even if it was that someone said something mean to her. Forget the sticks and stone, words DO hurt. We want to protect our children from skinned knees and broken hearts. But the fact is we are not training them up in the way they should go if we don't allow them to experience a little pain.  It's a necessary evil in life.

Let your baby cry on your shoulder. Welcome the opportunity to use the experience as a springboard to talk about friendships at school.  Look back at your own high school yearbook. How many of your friends signed it, "BFF" (Best Friends Forever) yet twenty years have passed and you haven't seen them since graduation day?

It's your responsibility to explain to your child that friendships are fragile.  Everyone wants to be loved and accepted.  Boys are not exempt from friendship woes; it just tends to be more dramatic with little girls.

Perhaps Martin Luther King didn't have the elementary school drama in mind when he said, "Can't we just all get along," but the emotion was likely similar.  It's heart wrenching to hear your child lament how Katie was her best friend, but then Shannon had to come along and ruin it.  "Now Shannon and Katie are best friends and they don't include me!" 

While explaining the facts of fickle friendships may not fix things for your child, she may actually hear you now and listen to you later.  Parents have a natural instinct to fix things and make their baby's life easier.  Acknowledge your child's broken heart and use the tender moment as a learning experience.

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