Monday, July 18, 2011

Helping kids nurture their friendships

Chances are you are like me. You made some friends when your firstborn was a baby through mothers group or parenting groups. Your friendship with these parents has meant your children have probably formed some firm friendships with the children of these parents as well.

In my case when some of Tannah's best friends went to school last year I was worried that their long term firm friendship would start to fade. This worried me for two reasons. mainly because I didn't want my child to feel like everyone was going to school and leaving her behind and that school = I won't be your friend (I'm not anti school just pro unschooling) and I also didn't want my best friend (their Mother) and I to grow apart because our kids didn't want to spend time together.

The same is true for many of my other friends. Our kids enjoy each others company and I value my friendship with their mothers and I didn't want school to automatically mean that Tannah and I lost friends. This scenario would also be relevant for kids going to different schools or starting school in different years.

The Lovely Katepickle's twinadoes have been in school for a year and a half and I'm pleased to say that her kids and my kids friendships-as well as Kate's and mine-are as strong as ever.

Here are some tips to nurturing those friendships.

-Know each others schedules. I am particularly crap at this but it has always helped when I know when kinder/extra curricular activities etc is on so I can make regular plans when the other family is busy.

-Don't assume that families don't ever want to catch up after school. We have caught up with many of our schooled friends in the afternoons. I wouldn't recommend dropping in unannounced but don't discount an after school visit or an early dinner on a week night.

-Make exciting plans for the school holidays. We had a sleepover last school holidays with 4 of her friends and Tannah slept over at her friends house this holidays. I know some of my first mothers group still go away together despite the kids going to different schools.

-Do an out of school activity together. If you live close by and your kids have a mutual love of dance/music/auskick why not do it together?

-Make a standing regular catch up. Kate and I have dinner almost every Friday night with all of our kids. They come straight from school and stay until lateish. You could do a Sunday breakfast, a play in the park after school or monthly family dinner.

-Once kids get older they can use social media and skype to stay in touch.

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-Invite a mix of kids to birthday parties and the like. Tannah and Willow had a great time at the Zoe and Izzy's Rainbow party and I know that her schooled friends have enjoyed parties with our home educated friends. Don't assume that kids won't get along unless they are all in the same class.

-Make time to catch up with your friend with only some of the kids or without kids at all! Your friendships are important too.


And a point I feel is really important-don't feel that you need to put up with friends that are disrespectful to the choices you have made. Be they home educating or choosing a expensive/huge public school it's not worth it. You and your children deserve friends that make you feel supported, not judged. It's absolutely possible to be friends with a family who send their child to school when you don't-as long as you are still have things in common and are respectful and supportive of the other families choice.
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