Learning about and forming relationships with others is a key life skill. Children and young people who make friendships early on have an easier time forming relationships as they get older.
Relationships alter as children grow up. Older children will spend less time with their parents and more time with their peers. This is key to developing strong friendships and living a happy life.
Friendships allow a child to explore beyond their family and should be given space and time to develop.
If a child is struggling to make friends at school or feeling excluded it is important to remind them that friends should:
- support and listen
- include you
- respect you – not make fun of you, your religion, sexuality or culture or make you feel in danger.
ChildLine offers advice for friendships, including what to do if you fall out, drift apart, get stuck in the middle or are attracted to a friend.
Life changes such as moving house or changing schools can separate friends. If a child is struggling with this you might want to encourage them to:
- exchange phone numbers
- use social media
- arrange a date to meet up before the change occurs.
It’s good to remember that changes can also be positive and allow people to make new friends. Childline has lots of tips for making new friends.
However, some children and young people may still struggle to make friends or be lonely. Pressure to achieve and gain good exam results can also affect their social experience, making them lonely and isolated.
A child may also feel lonely and isolated because:
- they have been abused or bullied and they struggle to trust people
- they have a physical illness, a disability or an eating disorder
- they have depression and/or anxiety
- they have lost someone or ended a relationship
- they don’t get on with their family or live in care.
Again, Childline has advice about how to tackle loneliness and build self-esteem.
As young people pass puberty, romantic relationships are likely to become more important in their lives. It is important to talk to young people about sexual health and relationships.