To add to the list of things I never thought much about before becoming a parent, is the importance and skills involved in helping my children establish and maintain friendships. With kindergarten looming on Sam’s social horizon, I have been checking in with him lately on what he is comfortable with, and where he might like some help. (Preschool is great for teaching Sam how to negotiate the intricacies of friendships he already has, so we’re all about how to make new and lasting ones.) Luckily, Sammy has a natural facility in this arena. My job seems to be more of one of helping him practice.
For example on the way to soccer camp yesterday sounded like this.
Me: So when you see all these new kids today, how can you go about introducing yourself?
Sam: Hi. What is your name?
Me: Good start. Could you begin with your own name first?
Sam: Hi My name is Sammy. What’s your name?
Me: Great! And what happens when someone starts passing you the ball, or hanging out with you during snack time, and you forgot to ask each other your name? What can you do then?
Sam: Keep passing the ball. Or ask them for some of their food to share if I like it.
Me: Uh, sure. Can you think of a way to ask their name then too?
Sam: My name is Sammy, and I don’t know your name.
Me: You will be president one day!
At the pool later, after camp, Sam sees a boys who was just in camp with him. He jumps up and down and points.
Sam: Mom that boy went to soccer with me! He did! I know him.
Me: Fun! Can you invite him to come over and play with us?
Sam: Hey! Do you want to jump in the pool with me?
New Friend: Sure.
I smile and say hi, and then ask Sam what the young man’s name is.
Sam: Mom if you don’t know someone’s name, you can just ask them!
For Sam friendship 101 may also include discussions about adoption, race, and not having a dad. We might also need to cover how his athletic ability is both an asset, and something that can be difficult for some kids to relate to when they do not feel as skilled or able as he is. What am I missing? What are some of your own memories of making new friends? And what have been some of your parenting ah-ha’s around helping your young children learn how to initiate and maintain friendships?
In a post later this week, I am going to explore how friendships with other adoptees play a unique role in his life already. I look forward to hearing your stories there as well!