More than 30 years ago, Lillian Hoban wrote the classic children’s book, Will I Have a Friend? The book tells the story of five-year old Jim who is off to kindergarten and worried about whether he will have any friends. Walking to school with his dad on the first day, Jim expresses his concerns to his father who tries to reassure him but Jim is still not convinced. It turns out that making new friends is a little challenging as Jim faces typical social ups and downs. But by the end of the story, Jim has made a friend and is thrilled to tell his dad all about him.
Three decades later, Jim’s kindergarten experience is still relevant. Children still worry about making friends and fitting in. Parents may worry about this too and not be quite sure how they can help their child navigate friendships and social situation.
To educate parents, Princeton based family psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore has created a series of instructional DVDs titled, Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids. In addition to working with children professionally, Kennedy-Moore is a mother of four so she knows both personally and professionally how important friendships are to kids. She explains, “Almost every child struggles at some point, in some way, with getting along. Maybe they have to make a friend in a new classroom or maybe they feel jealous and left out when their best friend spends time with someone else. Maybe they have trouble being a good sport about losing a game or maybe they overreact to teasing. These are all typical struggles, but they can be very painful.”
For children to be emotionally healthy, they need to understand their feelings and be able to adapt to social situations. While it is not realistic to expect a child to happy all the time, it is beneficial to teach children how to cope with different feelings and social challenges. “Being socially healthy means being able to create and maintain strong, satisfying relationships”, says Kennedy-Moore.
The DVDs are based on extensive research and offer practical tips while also being entertaining. The topics addressed include Teaching Kids to Care; Developing Genuine Self-Esteem; Managing Anxiety and Anger; Playing Well With Others; and Growing Up Social in the Digital Age.
While the importance of childhood friendships has not changed in the past 30 years, there are different concerns that parents and children face today than they did when Hoban’s book was originally published. Social media and technology in general have created a new social dynamic especially for pre-teens. In addition, Kennedy-Moore believes that parents feel a lot of pressure to raise ‘impressive’ kids. She says, “Parents hear that it’s their responsibility to raise kids who excel at academics and sports and music and leadership. I think that focus places too much of a burden on both parents and their children.”
Kennedy-Moore points out that there are many of the things that matter most in life are not “impressive”. Qualities that cannot be quantified such as kindness, humor, perseverance and joy can become devalued in today’s achievement based way of judging children. It is up to parents to help their children develop these qualities so that they can grow up to be happy and well adjusted.
Kennedy-Moore says, ““Kids aren’t just short adults. There are qualitative changes that kids go through in how they understand friendship, how they cope with feelings, and how they think about themselves.” By understanding the ins and outs of childhood friendships through the various stages of development, parents can help their children to develop strong social and coping skills.
The DVDs are available at www.TheGreatCourses.com/Kids and they’re on sale at 70% off until Dec. 31