Children spend about three-quarters of the year in school. Do you ever wonder who they hang out with during this time? Or better still do you ever take the trouble to find out?
Doreen Metta, a lecturer at St Lawrence University and a mother of four, says it is vital to foster your child’s social and emotional growth because it is our relationships that matter most.
Get out of comfort zone
“Children’s minds are very receptive, they pick up almost everything they see and hear,” she explains. Children at a tender age are at a phase of finding themselves and therefore it is very important to know who is involved in your child’s moulding process. Children will become what they often hear and see a round. It is therefore very important for a parent to get involved as much as they possibly can in their child’s school life.
“A parent can start by asking their children basic information like their friends’ names, what they like about them and what they do together while at school. Take time to observe your child’s behaviour to see if they have some odd manners. Establish where this could be stemming from.” From this point, you can find ways to meet your child’s peers.
Invite them on visitation
Steven Muwanga Mukasa, a teacher at Romasa College, Mukono says teachers do their best to instil the right behaviour in their students as they also monitor who they spend most of their time with. However, a parent’s role is irreplaceable. “It is important for parents to be fully involved in their children’s lives. Getting to know the kind of friends that your child hangs around is a must if you are to salvage the path that your child takes into adulthood. It is equally important to know your teenager’s friends as it is to know your kindergarten-going child’s friends,” says Mukasa.
For parents whose children are in boarding schools, invite your child’s friends over on visitation day. Try associating with them, get to know their names, where they come from, how they became friends. “Ask teachers how your child’s friends behave in the absence of parents. And are they good company for your child?”
Engage in conversations
Constance Ssenungi, an early childhood development specialist at Little Ones Nursery Nabbingo, explains the need to build a conversational relationship with your child. “Engaging your child in mutual conversation where you listen to them and talk to them even about your fears and struggles. It is however important to minimise it to what a child can take. This builds their confidence and you can thereafter always trust that they will talk to you about their day-to-day engagements.”
This is especially important when the child reaches their teen years. If they have developed the habit of talking to you over the years, then it will be much easier to talk to you as teenagers. It is especially important to know who your teenage child is hanging out with given these uncertain times.
“It is important for your child to have friends who share the same viewpoints since “we become who we hang out with,” says Ssenungi.
What parents ought to do
Different homes have different values. Watching out for your children’s behaviour and getting to know who their friends are will do you good. “Take an extra step to know the kind of family they are from and who the parents are,” Ssenungi advises.
Give them audience and befriend them. This way you will be able to know their character traits but one day is not enough for you to critically analyse them. “Seek permission from their parents and invite them over, you can do this once during the holidays,” she adds.
Talk but politely
Even when you find something wrong with their behaviour do not be rude to them. If they have become friends with you after a number of interactions, sit them with your child and talk to them.
Talk to your child about your findings. Share with them your piece of mind concerning the kind of friends they are associating with. However bring it out in a way that is not offensive when their parents get to hear it.
• Starting from the preschool years, you can be present and available when your children are playing with others. You can provide instruction about sharing and resolving conflicts without hitting or demeaning friends. These early play times allow you to see how your child interacts with other children and highlights your child’s internal social strengths and challenges.
• Welcome your child’s friends to your home. Be sure that they can follow the rules of your home. If speaking with respect and asking permission to have a snack is a core value in your family, be sure that your child’s friends can accept and accommodate these rules. If a friend is difficult for you to manage, this will give you good information about what your child is coping with and whether you need to be involved in supporting or redirecting this friendship choice.
• Encourage your teen to talk about anything with their peers. In conversations with peers, teens can have a back-and-forth discussion that feels more mutual than with adults who may have “already made up their mind” and inadvertently do not allow the teen to explore a range of ideas. Peers can be protective of your teen.