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Friendship 101

Do we need to teach our children social skills?

I was watching football on TV the other day when a Jersey Mike’s commercial came on. The piece started with a bunch of high school age boys sitting on couches in a typical living room. They were all on their smartphones. The boys were not looking at or talking to each other. They were all silent, intensely communicating via their screens. Then the idea of going out to get a sandwich at Jersey Mike’s started being passed. The commercial ends with the boys all talking and smiling while eating at the sub shop.

When I saw this commercial my heart sank. Working with children and teens, I thought “what a sad but accurate message about kids today”. This is now the norm for how our teens socialize and communicate. They are sitting right next to each other on the couch and not talking. Here is what is even scarier – our children think the world has always been this way? (Remember when teens use to get in trouble for hanging around malls or downtown? Do you know where they do most of their socializing now? In their bedrooms on their phones.)

And we wonder why they struggle with reading social cues, nonverbal body language and facial expressions. And why surveys reveal a growing number feel lonely, depressed, left out and without friends.

This last lesson in the Ohana SEL+ Programwas designed to directly address this relatively new trend and reverse it. Here is the bottom line – Our children just need more PRACTICE!

We do this by putting in place an intentional language, process and environment here at the dojo where we teach children the norm is meeting and being a good friend. We teach them how this is done then we set up the expectation and support for them to practice it daily.

Would you like to help? Here is all you have to do at home:

1. Every day just ask your child – “Did you get a chance to add someone to your Friendship Target today?” (Don’t judge their answer. This is not a time to “teach”. This is just to develop the habit of awareness in your children.)

2. Then one a day, when you have more time ask – “Can you teach me how this Friendship Target works?”

3. *For you overachiever parents, here is something extra you can do (and you can do this with the entire family):

a. Take a black sheet of paper. Have everyone, including you, think of all the places and times you regularly interact with others. Then under each place right down every single person you know. You might not even know their name but it may be that “guy with the red hair and glasses I see at lunch every day”.

b. Then make a Friendship Target and place everyone, with their name, on your list on the target (including people you do not get along with or do not consider a “friend”).

c. You can have a discussion over where they are on your target and what direction you want them to move. (*One warning - keep your target private. Do not show it to your friends.)

Thanks for playing an active role in your child’s social development.

Let me know how it goes! Yours for stronger kids,


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