Watching your child go through the ups and downs of friendship can be challenging as a parent.
It’s hard not to be emotionally invested in your child’s relationships with other people – after all we want everyone to love and value them just as much as we do.
Friendships can end for so many reasons. When it comes to childhood friendship some of those reasons are less clear than others.
There are the obvious reasons such as moving away or even being in a different class that can cause a previously tight friendship to drift apart.
There might be a difference in interests that becomes a point of conflict. Or a misdemeanour such as telling a secret or letting the other person down.
Sometimes kids ditch friends for less obvious reasons. They might be superficial reasons such as not being cool enough, sporty enough or not listening to the right music. After all, kids can be fickle sometimes!
Research also now tells us that friendships can end because of parents.
As if we needed that to add to our list of things to feel guilty about!
A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology set out to determine if negative parenting characteristic such as manipulative and coercive behaviours impact children’s friendship stabilty. The study took into consideration parental mental health difficulties and the child’s social status (how well they were liked).
What they found was that children with psychologically controlling parents, eg. those who used shaming and guilt, had an increased risk of best friendship dissolution.
They also found that children with clinically depressed parents had an increased risk of best friendships breaking up. In fact, the risk for this group increased by up to 104%.
The most alarming finding of the study was that positive parental behaviours such as warmth and affection don’t actually have much of an impact in protecting children’s friendships!
We believe that children with depressed and psychologically controlling parents are not learning healthy strategies for engaging with other people, which could have long-term consequences for their future relationships”, said Professor Brett Laursen, a co-author of the study.
The moral of the story is that parents need to be mindful of the impact their behaviour has on their children’s social skills.
But most of us already knew that. And most parents try their best to create a positive family environment conducive to making healthy and meaningful connections. You can read more about helping kids build healthy friendships here.
When childhood friendships do inevitable end, it is important to support and reassure your child that friendships often don’t last forever. In fact, we can all take heart in the fact that almost half of primary school besties part ways within a year.
So mums and dads, try not to feel guilty if your child’s friendship ends. It’s highly unlikely it was your fault!