Friendship for Kids

5 SIGNS YOUR CHILD IS TRAPPED IN A TOXIC FRIENDSHIP GROUP

5 Signs Your Child is Trapped in a Toxic Friendship Group-2.png

1. OUTSIDERS ARE NOT WELCOMED.

      Your child wants to invite other children to her/his birthday party who are outside of the "friendship circle" and were told they were not allowed to by the children inside the friendship circle. Your child might even ask to have two separate birthday parties: one to host the clique and one to host everyone else. 

 

2. INDIVIDUALITY IS NOT ACCEPTED.

  Cliques enforce strict "conformity" rules (i.e. everyone must like the color "purple"... everyone must like a certain kind of music... everyone must do similar activities such as a particular sport or hobby...everyone must dress a certain way...etc.) When your child practices their own individuality that goes against the conformity of the group,  they risk rejection from the friendship group. 

 

3. WORDS ARE WEAPONS.

      Cliques/Toxic friendship groups spend the majority of their time together talking poorly about others outside of the group or other members of the group who  are not present at the time. Chronic gossip and trash talking are not social norms among childhood friendship groups. In fact, it's a sign of a toxic community.

 

4. SILENT TREATMENT IS USED TO GAIN CONTROL.

     One moment your child is "in" the group and the next moment he/she hasn't heard from anyone in a few days and wonders what they have done wrong. Clique's use the silent treatment to control  and reinforce co-dependency. Usually, the queen bee (or narcissistic leader of the clan) will be the first to execute the silent treatment initiative while the others follow suit. 

 

5. LOYALTY IS GIVEN TO THE GROUP ALONE AND NEVER TO AN INDIVIDUAL MEMBER OF THE GROUP .

    When member hurts another member in a clique/toxic friendship group, no one stands up or speaks up about the offense. The offense is overlooked because loyalty is to the group and not to a person. Cliques not address conflict within the group. They will take up battles against outsides but they will not directly hash out any relational conflict between themselves. Either they will force out a member with the silent treatment or they will passive aggressively attack his/her intellect, physically appearance, interested, family dynamic, economic status, etc.... until that members gets the message, "YOU ARE NO LONGER ONE OF US."

    What do you do if your child is trapped in a clique?

1. Remember YOU are the parent and YOU can help.

   Parents, you are NOT powerless against your child's toxic friendship group. You can help your child exit an abusive social circle  by limiting the opportunities your child spends with them, introducing your child to other social circles through extracurricular activities, placing boundaries on smart phone usage at home (i.e. phones off by 9pm, utilizing tools like the Circle, limiting social media apps, etc.) and having a frank conversation with your kid, "Your friends are not nice to you. You need new friends."

   Many parents feel like that they cannot  interfere with who their children chooses to be friends with and often assume that other children are "harmless" because they are
"just children". If you suspect your child is suffering because they are trapped in a clique, do something. Get outside help with counseling. Have an honest conversation with your child. Help them connect to others. Oh, and be their friend. Yea... I just said it. And I'll say it again...

2. Be your kid's friend.

   You can be both an healthy leader in your child's life and an example of a healthy friend. I think this idea of "parents cannot be friends with their children" is not only pure bologna... it's damaging. Children need to have examples of what a healthy friend looks like...and guess what ... that example should be you. Have fun with your child! Take them out ice-cream! Allow yourself to laugh with them! Run around on the playground and play tag with them. Practice appropriate vulnerability with them (example: Your child notices that you are down after a long day at work. They ask you if you are okay. An appropriate vulnerable response would be: "I feel a little down today because work was really hard. Do you ever feel down when school is hard? What makes me feel better is spending time with you/going for a long walk/enjoying a bubble bath/etc." Appropriate vulnerability models to children how to name feelings and take proactive steps to navigate them). 

    There may come a time when your child is kicked out of their clique and you might just be their only friend for a season. So, be it...and be a dang good one,

3. Do not be deceived: Academic intelligence will get your child to college but social intelligence will get them through college.

   Invest your child's social intelligence. If you are child is repeatedly finding themselves in toxic social groups, utilize the help of a therapist. If your child seems to always be in the midst of friendship drama, teach them the importance of healthy friendship. Do not turn a blind eye and only be concerned about what is going to get them into college (academic, sports, extracurricular activities,volunteer work, etc.) Care about their social well being too. College can be wonderful or it can be awful and often ... what determines one way or the other is... friendship. 

[ For more on cliques, listen to Friending Podcast's  Episode 53 ]

KIDS, SMART PHONES + PARENT PRESSURE (oh my!)

     We sat around a sticky table at Starbucks when one mother said to another mother,

"Honestly. I can't believe you gave your ten year old a smart phone! Don't you know how dangerous it is?"

   Other mothers started to chime in with all kinds of " children and technology" opinions. It's terrible for their brain development! It makes them accessible to cyber-bullying! They become vulnerable to online predators!

     The mother, in question, took another sip of her flat white and then placed it carefully in the middle of the table.

      "I didn't give my ten year old a smart phone. Her *father* did. When we separated, he bought it for her because she started to have panic attacks at bedtime. When she is with me at night, he will FaceTime her until she falls asleep. When she is with him, I do the same. "

  Suddenly Starbucks fell silent and we all felt a little stupid.

KIDS, SMART PHONES, + PARENT PRESSURE.png

What you need to know about kids, smart phones + parent pressure:

1. This is a personal decision that parents need to make for their individual child. The polling consensus doesn't get a vote.

       You have to do what is best for your child. Period.

  • It is the responsibility of the parent to inform themselves of all the possible positive and negative effects of smart phone/social media  usage.
  • It is the responsibility of the parent to assess their own child's individual maturity to handle 24 hour access to information and peer interaction.
  • It is the responsibility of the parent to create healthy boundaries and positive restrictions to safeguard their child and protect them from online harm.
  • It is the responsibility of the parent to make a  decision, enforce their decision, and be confident in their decision as it pretains to social media, smart phone and their kid.

     No one else gets a say. As much as peer pressure is alive and well today... so is "parent pressure". Newsflash, people: Parenting in this highly technologically driven age is really friggin' hard to navigate. So, let's be gentle with each other. Okay?

2. Personal Social Media/ SmartPhone Policy should be communicated to parents/adults who are temporarily caring for your child. 

     Parents have the right to enforce their family's personal phone/social media policy no matter where their child is. Here's an example: Your daughter is  attending Little Susie's slumber party. You are not sure if the other children at the slumber party have access to a smart phone but your personal family phone/social media  policy is that your daughter's picture is not to be on social media sites  nor should she engage on any a social media site. This personal policy should be communicated to Little Susie's parents, "Hey. Just a heads up...our daughter is not allowed to be on or engaging on any social media sites. We would really appreciate if you could help us honor that commitment we made." Will Little Susie's parents honor your request? There is no guarantee... but if they are decent folks, they will. Even so, you got to communicate what you want held accountable. 

    A mistake that many parents make is that they assume parents of other children have similar family social media/ smart phone policies. When they find out that Little Billy introduced their child to the world of Snap Chat at Billy's house... they freak out. Little Billy's parents allow him to use Snap Chat with some restrictions but Little Billy's parents had no idea that Snap Chat was not something that  all parents were cool with. Do you see the problem? Lack of communication means lack of accountability.

      Parents have got to get comfortable with communicating what their personal policy is. They don't have to defend or give reason for their policy but they do need to make it known. 

3.  Parents shouldn't feel like they have to defend their phone/social media policy to anyone...except to their kid. 

    Throw tomatoes at me if you will, but your kid needs to know the "why" behind the phone/social media policies you are putting into place. The old line of, "Cause we say so", just doesn't cut it these days (did it ever?) . This classic parental proclamation will NOT empower your child to stand up to the peer pressure they are going to have to navigate. 

  When we educate our children with why we have restrictions or particular policies, we are empowering them. Will they always agree with our reasons? Um...no...but at least we will equip them with good information that they can weigh against what information their peers will offer them.  We have got to give our kids the opportunity to think critically.... especially in this technologically driven age. We do this by informing.

4. Parents should help other parents out by reporting dangerous activity discovered on social media.

     No. No one gets to tell you how to parent your kid. No. One. But if you happen to stumble upon Little Judy's finsta account where she is posing in her bra and panties and talking dirty to 30 year old men...  I think it's fair to discreetly inform Little  Judy's parents of this kind activity. 

    Once another mother said to me, "Oh my God! Did see So-and-So's daughter's fake Instagram account ! She was half naked in her last post. I doubt all the men that made comments on her post knew she was only 13."  

   I responded, "Do her parents know?"

   She said "I don't know. It's not my problem. She's not my kid."

   To which I replied , "So...it's not your problem... but it IS you latest piece of hot gossip?" (Side note: I get snarky when I feel like people aren't taking children's safety seriously)

    Look. I get it. Some of us don't want to tell parents that they are kids are cyber-bullying...  the target of cyber-bulling ... posing half naked in posts... or chatting online to strangers... because it's uncomfortable. It IS uncomfortable. Get over it. Our kids are too precious to not make it our business to keep them safe.  If you see something that concerns you, say something to the people who love that child the most: the parents.

    Our kids are living in way different world than the world WE lived in as children. Technology has changed but kids haven't. Kids still need parents to be their loving leaders who make good decisions on their behalf.  So...

Let's remember:

1. The decision about social media/phone policy is personal for each parent to weigh for their child.

2. We need to communicate appropriately what our personal policy is if we want it to be enforced no matter where our child is.

3. We need to empower our kids by educating them on the reasons why we have particular social media/phone policies.

4. We need to help each other out and make the safety of all children our business. 

   We can do this.

We can lead this generation well. We were born for it.

Always cheering for you,

Noelle

3 WAYS I CAN HELP MY CHILD LEARN HOW TO BE A GOOD FRIEND

 Friendship is learned.

   We learn the art of friendship by observation and practice.  Whether we are aware of it or not, our kids are receiving an education in "how to be a friend" everyday.  The question is, "Are they learning how to be a good friend?"

  More and more, as I research friendship, I am convinced that children learn friendship best from their parents. So, this summer, I sat back and thought, "Am I intentionally teaching my kids how to be a GOOD friend?"

   With all the work I do with Friending Podcast and speaking about friendship, I realized that I have kinda dropped the ball in teaching my kids what a healthy friendship is supposed to look like. So, I put my in butt in gear and decided NOW is the time to help my children cultivate a lifelong skill that will not only positively impact their physical health but also their outlook on their future.

 

1. HELP MY CHILD ESTABLISH "FRIENDSHIP GOALS".

      I sat my kids down one morning and asked them, "How can you be a better friend?" Their answers were mature and insightful: 

"I want to tell my friends that they are awesome more often..."

"I want to not be so bossy when we are playing games..."

"I want to make sure everyone is included..."

"I want to make a new friend this school year..."

      A few days a later, I had them create their own "Friendship Goals" vision boards to help remind them what kind of friend they want to be.

    Dear friend, please know that  I am not crafty. At. All. So, this activity was thrown together because the Christmas Tree Shop had a 2 for 1 sale on blank canvases. My daughter (who is the arty one) found a box of puff paints and old markers stuffed under her bed. "
Friendship Goals" vision boards does not have to be fancy. They only need to be visual

   Both of their "Friendship Goals" vision boards are proudly displayed in each of their bedrooms and they have  become a great conversation piece at bedtime. The "Friendship Goals
vision boards serve as a  reminder of their own desire to be a good friend and the steps they want to take to be a good friend. It's also something that I can hold them accountable to.

 

2. HELP MY CHILD UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HEALTHY AND UNHEALTHY FRIENDSHIP HABITS.

  

    There are healthy and unhealthy friendship habits. Encouragement is a healthy friendship habit. Communicating to a friend how they are specifically awesome is encouragement. Manipulation is an unhealthy friendship habit. Giving your friend the silent treatment because they did not do what you wanted them to do is manipulation. I realized that my kids need me to show them the distinction between what is healthy and what is not.

  There is a popular saying, that even I have been guilty of quoting. and that is,

"Kids will be kids."

    This is true. Kids will be kids, but even still, kids need to be taught what is right. If I notice that one of kids' friendship groups have an unhealthy habit of excluding others, it's my responsibility to say, "Uh, that's not right. That's not healthy." 

  In the same way, when my child tells me that a friend drew them a card to help cheer them up, I need to point out that this is a healthy quality in their friendship: "Wow! I am so glad  you have a friend who notices when you are upset and tries to help you feel better. This is what a good friend does."

  It's important to take the time to make sure my kids know how a good friend treats others. I am always shocked when I hear of stories of children who have been bullied for years by their so-called "best friend". When asked why they let themselves be mistreated for so long many of them say, "I didn't know any different." Whoa.

 

3. HELP MY CHILD LEARN TO BE A GOOD FRIEND BY CULTIVATING MY OWN HEALTHY FRIENDSHIPS

     They say that children learn more from what their parents practice then what their parents preach. If want my kids to learn to be a good friend, than I need to be a good friend. This means, I need to show up in my friends' lives on a regular basis. I need to have healthy boundaries within my friendships. AND I need to actually go out and spend time with my friends... and not use my children as an excuse to not to.

    Friendship is a lifelong skill that I am always trying to sharpen. I don't think I will ever be the "perfect friend" but I would love to become someone that my kids could say, "My mom was a good friend. I learned a lot from watching her."

For more on how to help your child become a good friend listen to Episode 31 (Helping Your Kids With Friendship) on Friending Podcast:

 

 


ABOUT NOELLE

Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor(Friend +Mentor = Friendtor).  She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship.   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

RAISING A DAUGHTER WHO EMPOWERS OTHER WOMEN

  On January 21, 2017, 440,000 to 500,000 people gathered in Washington DC along with a  worldwide participation of an estimated five million people for the Women's March.  It is said to be the largest single-day protest in US History.

   Women's rights are important to me and not just because I'm female. They are important to me because I have an eight year old daughter and it's my desire (along with her father's) that she has all the space to grow up to be everything she is meant to be. 

   As much as I want misogyny, sexism, and inequality to end FOREVER, there is a greater present threat against my daughter that concerns me...

The other girls in her class.

    The extremes of bullying between girls has become more disturbing, prevalent and younger. I  cried when I read about the 11 year old girl who had boiling hot water thrown on her face and body when she was at sleepover. In my own community, a 12 year old girl committed suicide after being tortured by a group of girls from her school with bullying-text messages for a long period of time. The last text message  she received from one of these girls was an encouragement for her to kill herself ... and she did. As a community, we are shaken to our core. These are our kids. These are our girls and they are doing this to each other.

       Looking back on my own childhood and adolescence, my greatest pain did not come from heartbreak of boyfriends but rather from the girls who ripped apart my reputation and told lies about me. Fortunately, I didn't have to suffer their abuse 24/7 because they did not have that kind of constant access to me. There was no texting back then.  When I was home with my parents, I was truly safe from those girls' cruelty. My daughter, on the other hand, lives in a very different world and it's only for so long that I will be able to protect from her own kind.

  As women, we have the right to be treated with dignity, respect, and kindness. When we are not, we should speak up... but what do we do when it's our own fellow sisters that are mistreating us?

   This summer, I began to ask myself this question: HOW CAN I BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION? I realized that first and foremost:

I must decide and commit to intentionally raising my daughter to empower other women.

    What does this look like?

1)  I AFFIRM THAT SHE IS WORTHY OF DIGNITY, RESPECT, AND KINDNESS.

      I tell my daughter constantly that it is her responsibility to embrace her uniqueness and it's our responsibility to accept her for who she is. She does not have to become like anyone else to find belonging. In our home, she is accepted. Both my husband and I are followers of Jesus, but our children know that their faith is their own decision to make - and no. matter. what. - they will always be accepted and embraced by us. If my daughter cannot find dignity, respect and kindness in her own home, then what chance does she have in requiring it of others?

2)  I TELL HER THAT GIRL POWER IS TO HELP AND NOT HURT OTHERS.

     Girl power is always to be meant for good. Girls should not gang up to tear down other girls. Girls should not use their voice to threaten or belittle other girls (or anyone for that matter). Girls should never organize themselves to bully or to exclude, but rather girls should rally together to promote the good of the entire community. I have explained to my daughter that if she sees others misusing their power or voice to hurt another person that she should feel free to speak up and to tell an adult. It's not okay for anyone to be unkind ...but girls need to stick together.

3) I ENCOURAGE HER TO LOOK FOR WAYS TO HELP OTHER GIRLS RECOGNIZE THEIR OWN AWESOMENESS.

      I have taught my daughter how to compliment and make positive comments about another. In a world, where gossip is juicy and poisonous, we need to teach kids to speak kindly to and about each other. I told her that when a friend does well on a test ... or is wearing an awesome shirt ... or is super good at 4 Squares, that she should point that out to them. We have a saying in our home and that is, "Catch others doing something right."

4) I WILL HOLD HER ACCOUNTABLE.

     If my daughter is with  group of girls who become catty, I will point it out to her. If I find that she is not speaking up when others are tearing down another girl, I will call her to task. If another parent informs that my daughter has not been kind , I will take that accusation seriously. Mistreating others will not tolerated and will not be excused. Why?

Because women's rights are important and as women, we need to model it's importance by  treating each other with the dignity, respect, and kindness we deserve.

 

           One of things my daughter and I decided to do this summer was to make a pact. We decided to be women who empowered other women. In honor of our pact, we made two made two bracelets. One for her and one for me. Each are similar but different and represent our uniqueness.

 

    We wear our bracelets to remind ourselves that we do not have to change who we are to belong. We will always accept and embrace each as we are no matter what. We wear our bracelets to remind ourselves that we want to be women who really truly use our Girl Power to help others. We wear our bracelets to remind ourselves that it our great duty to help other females recognize their own awesomeness. We wear our bracelets to recognize that we are a part of a great worldwide tribe of women and together....we are better.

    May our daughters grow to be the most fiercely loving and kind generation ever. And may they stand on our shoulders to do so. Amen.

Your friend,

Noelle

* Photos by : Mykowski Imagery

ABOUT NOELLE

    Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor(Friend +Mentor = Friendtor).  She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship.   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

  

7 BOOKS ABOUT FRIENDSHIP TO READ TO YOUR KIDS THIS SUMMER

Summer is nearly here and there is no better time to talk to our kids about friendship than when then during the summer break! Here are a few of my favorite children's and Middle School grade books that deal with themes about friendship...

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip C. Stead

  • Age Range: 2 - 6 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 1

"Friends come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In Amos McGee’s case, all sorts of species, too! Every day he spends a little bit of time with each of his friends at the zoo, running races with the tortoise, keeping the shy penguin company, and even reading bedtime stories to the owl. But when Amos is too sick to make it to the zoo, his animal friends decide it’s time they returned the favor."

The Friend Ship by Kat Yeh

  • Age Range: 3 - 5 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - Kindergarten

 

"Little Hedgehog is very lonely. But then she overhears passersby talking about something that gives her hope-something called a Friend Ship!  

Hedgehog imagines a ship filled with friends of all kinds, and soon she's ready to hit the open seas in a boat of her own to track it down. Along the way, she meets other lonely animals eager to join her quest.

They search north. They search south. They search east. But Hedgehog and her new friends can't find the Ship anywhere! Until she realizes she knows just where the Friend Ship is. . . 
"

 

 

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers

  • Age Range: 3 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 2

"What is a boy to do when a lost penguin shows up at his door? Find out where it comes from, of course, and return it. But the journey to the South Pole is long and difficult in the boy’s rowboat. There are storms to brave and deep, dark nights.To pass the time, the boy tells the penguin stories. Finally, they arrive. Yet instead of being happy, both are sad. That’s when the boy realizes: The penguin hadn’t been lost, it had merely been lonely.

A poignant, funny, and child-friendly story about friendship lost . . . and then found again.
"

 

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 7

"It was the perfect summer. That is, until Jeremy Ross moved into the house down the street and became neighborhood enemy number one. Luckily Dad had a surefire way to get rid of enemies: Enemy Pie. But part of the secret recipe is spending an entire day playing with the enemy! 

In this funny yet endearing story, one little boy learns an effective recipes for turning your best enemy into your best friend. Accompanied by charming illustrations, Enemy Pie serves up a sweet lesson in the difficulties and ultimate rewards of making new friends."

 

Flora & Ulysses by Kat DiCamillo

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7

"Flora starts off her 10th summer by promising her mother that she'll spend more time reading real books, and less time poring over the pages of her favorite superhero comics. But neither she nor her mother could have predicted that her summer would be one long superhero adventure, starring none other than Flora and her new pet squirrel, Ulysses. Ulysses gains super-squirrel strength after being sucked into a vacuum cleaner, and he changes the Buckman family's lives, renewing a sense of hope and optimism in Flora."

 

Holes by Louis Sachar

  • Age Range: 10 and up 
  • Grade Level: 5 and up

"Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnatses. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.

It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption."

 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7

"August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance."


ABOUT NOELLE

    Noelle is a researcher, speaker, and podcaster. She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women empower women through the art of friendship.

   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.