'Make friends, make friends, never, ever break friends!'
Friendship is a precious thing but it is also one fraught with difficulties, especially when we are young. From being part of a wide group of friends to having that one special best friend, relationships are a vital part of childhood.
What the children say
"It means someone you are side by side with" - Billy, age 10
"Best friend relationships can be very annoying, as me and my best friend are always falling out" - Breanna age 11
"I think supervisors on the playground need to be connected more with the children" - Hope, age 10
What we say
Relationships take work and issues such as conflict, bullying, racism, sexuality and social exclusion need to be addressed in ways that are honest, frank and effective. Loving thy neighbour may not always be possible but getting on together, working in teams, dealing with disagreements and falling out without falling apart are all things that we can help children master.
What the research says
The quality of relationships between children and their families is 10 times more powerful in explaining levels of well-being than specific family structures.
Social Relationships and Children’s Subjective Well-Being (2011) cited by The Children's Society, Six Priorities for Children’s Well-Being.
Start them thinking
What does 'friendship' mean to you?
Can you make someone be your friend?
Can you not like your best friend?
Is it easier to be friends with someone like you?
Do animals have friends?
Would you rather win a hundred pounds or a hundred friends?
Ask each child to draw a 'friendship web' of close and not so close friends.
Focus on anti-bullying ideas for a week.
Set up a friendship bench in the playground.
Identify and train peer 'friendship' coaches who can mediate when children fall out.
Explore the theme of 'unlikely friendships' in films and books
What You've Been Up To So Far:
A research-background display for parents with ideas to explore and where to seek help with difficult relationships
Emotional awareness activities based on Mr Men - none of us are Mr Angry or Little Miss Cheerful all the time, we all experience a range of emotions. We talked about ways to recognise and cope with them, in order to communicate and relate better to others
Party games incorporating co-operation such as sharing musical chairs and matching up Christmas card puzzles
Visiting the local church for a special event to build community relations
Thinking about our relationships with and responsibilities for the natural world by making bird feeders