Tag: making friends

Let’s Hang Out: Friendships in Adolescence

As your child becomes a teenager, friendships will become more important to them. They enjoy spending time with their friends and having fun, but friends become almost like a personal support group during adolescence.

Friends give teenagers a sense of belonging and security, a feeling of being valued, and a way to experiment with different identities, roles and values. Who knows, these friendships may eventually lead to their first relationship, which is another big milestone. As a parent, you want your teen to build healthy friendships they can rely on. It can be difficult to see your child struggling to make friends, or encounter problems in existing friendships.

Helping your Teen Build Friendships

Social skills – teach your teen how to have a good conversation. Get into the habit of chatting about topics they find interesting, whether it be TV shows, music or sport. Learning how to make small talk will be useful when it comes to meeting new people.

Support them – not everyone likes to socialise in the same way, so if your teen prefers to socialise over a yummy meal, during a walk or online, support that. Remind them that a good friendship takes time to develop, and show support if they are experiencing problems with their friend.

Encourage them to spend time with friends – if your child is asking to have a friend over after school, say yes. When the friend is over, be welcoming and friendly, and ensure siblings don’t barge in on them.

Get into the community – encourage your teen to volunteer or find a part-time job. Working in a place with other young employees or volunteers can help your child find friends and build job skills for the future.

Go through your own experiences – think back to your own teenage years. How did you make friends? Did you encounter any problems during those friendships? Explaining your own experiences to your teenager can give them a bit of insight.

Where to Make Friends

School – this is an obvious one. Most teenagers spend at least six hours per day at school, so it’s a great place to start.

Extracurricular activities – an after-school activity can help your teenager meet others with similar interests, whether it be dance, sports or an art class.

Clubs – many schools offer a variety of clubs, usually meeting after school or during lunch breaks. Common options include those in STEM, music or visual art. Your child’s school may also offer a yearbook committee or book club.

Online – given that they are being safe while they are online, internet friends can be great for your teen. Forums, online gaming and social media groups can help your teen find friends online.

All these sudden changes in adolescence can be just as confusing to your child as they are to you. While teens gravitate more towards their friends during their teenage years, remember that they still need you; even if they don’t necessarily show it.

Read more tweens and teens blogs here. 

 

CHARLIE COOPER AND HIS BUDDY BENCH

You may not know his name, but you most likely know his idea. Charlie Cooper is the inspirational 10 year old boy behind the Buddy Bench, a concept that is taking Australia by storm and helping children create friendships and eliminate loneliness in the school yard.

The inspiration behind the Buddy Bench is one most of us know too well. I can still recall that awful feeling when no one wanted to play with me at school. And, as a mum, there is nothing worse than having this same sinking feeling remerge when your child comes home feeling disappointed and discouraged that he didn’t make any friends.

Trinity Beach State School student Charlie Cooper knew this feeling all too well. But, unlike most kids, after months of feeling lonely in the playground, Charlie decided to do something about it.

The Buddy Bench started with a simple request. “Charlie came home one day from school and told me, ‘Mum, I didn’t make any friends again today’,” Charlie’s mum, Carly, tells PakMag. “The next day he went to his school principal with his idea for the Buddy Bench.”

Charlie’s hope was that the Buddy Bench, which he read about while holidaying in the United States, would help children feel included in the school yard.

“If you feel lonely at lunch, you can go there and there will be someone waiting for a friend. So you can make a new friend,” Charlie explains.

After his initial request and with the assistance of Leigh Nelson from Choice Pools Safety Inspection, Charlie wrote a letter to the Cairns Men’s Shed and Bunnings to ask for help. Within a few months the first Buddy Bench in Australia was installed at Trinity Beach State School last September.

In one short year, Charlie’s idea has travelled across Australia. Buddy Benches are now featured in many schools in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales including local schools Edge Hill State School, Isabella State School, St Andrews Catholic College, Caravonica State School and Whitfield State School with plenty more in the works.

“We certainly didn’t think it would go as nuts as it has!” Carly admits.

Charlie’s Buddy Bench isn’t the only thing getting recognised. Charlie is proving to be quite the inspiration as well. Last year he spoke at James Cook University’s inaugural TEDx event where he shared his solution to bullying. The YouTube video of his speech has been viewed close to 100,000 times in less than 12 months.

“About one person views the video every hour,” Charlie explains proudly.

Charlie was also nominated for the Pride of Australia medal that recognises ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Carly tells us that her son, who she describes as thoughtful, compassionate and kind, is definitely a lot “less shy” and “more cheeky” and the recent public speaking events, conferences and radio shows are boosting his confidence.

With every Buddy Bench installation comes a lesson for the students. They are taught what the Buddy Bench is for and encouraged to approach those who are using it. Rather than seen as
a target, the Buddy Bench is seen as a solution and so far, the results have been nothing but positive.

“At the start, lots of people were using it,” Charlie explains. “But now, there are less and less kids sitting there because they are making friends.”

Charlie’s kind spirit, his unwavering commitment and his inspirational story are changing the rules of the school yard for the better, one bench at a time.

Stay tuned for more inspirational children in the community and check out our tips on managing stress and bullying.