Expats . . . We hit the airport. We travel long distances to get back to “home” and we continually think about our kid’s friends. Do they need more? Do they need different ones?
Some expats pack up and move during the summer so they can get ready for a new location, a new school, and a new life. That summer means new friends. Due to the movement in International Schools, this means at some point; this child will seem friendless or so sad when their ‘best friend’ moves on. It might be your child that is left behind. Summer time can be hard on kids in transition. They might already be worrying about what is going to happen when they go back to school, and their best friend is gone.
Each child needs to feel connected and involved with other children. This is often through a common interest, gymnastics, after school activities, sleepovers, etc. This does not mean that during the school day that they need to be only connected to their best friend. In fact, parents and teachers will ask them to find other friends or to branch out their social connections.
It is important for a child to have a connection or a best buddy to help them through transition times. It is nice to see a familiar face when you have the first day of school. Or it is nice to be with a few friends when you move from elementary school to middle school. There are times that a connection is a critical part of a child’s life. These connections are often missing in the expat child’s life due to frequently moves.
But We Can Have Problems with Friends
The biggest pitfall is when your child’s friend limits your child from making new friends. Or does not let him/her make friends that might open their choices or focus on new things to do. It is hard for a child to form an interest in a new sport or new musical instrument if they never hear or see a peer involved in the activity. Kids learn by seeing others do it. If you have a reluctant reader do you just want them to be with other kids who love to play outside all the time or do you want them also to have a friend that loves to read and will get them into trying new books.
I feel it is important for children to have close connections to their family as well as friends. To shape these vital close relationships, you need to understand the way healthy relationships develop. I have a master’s in clinical psychology and work with a focus on family therapy with our international population. I often educate parents on ‘Neufeld Six Stages of Attachment ‘.
1. The most primitive and primary stage of attachment is PROXIMITY. Through touch, contact, and closeness, the infant begins attaching to his or her parents.
2. Secondly, toddlers seek SAMENESS with their parents, mimicking their mannerisms or dress, and looking for ways to be the same as their parents.
3. The third stage is BELONGING or LOYALTY. Often three-year-olds will be very possessive and say “my mommy or my daddy.”
4. Four-year-olds seek reassurance of the strength of their attachment to parents by wanting evidence of their SIGNIFICANCE. This is the fourth stage.
5. The fifth stage develops around the age of five when we see the beginnings of genuine LOVE as attachment goes deeper and deeper.
6. And finally, the sixth stage. From age six onward, if the attachment roots have gone deeply enough, we have a child who allows him or herself to venture out into BEING KNOWN.
This creates the foundation for virtually every relationship your child will ever have, beginning with parents, and later with siblings, friends, and intimate partners. This attachment is the cornerstone of parenting. It can help with keeping your child on track academically, managing challenging behavior, and maintaining the all-important role of being the one they turn to for advice and support.
But Sadly –
Parents often put more of a focus on their child’s friends than they do on their own parent/child connection. They take it for granted that because they are the parent this parent/child connection will be strong and secure.
I feel that a child to child friendship is vital, but they are also very ‘natural.’ If children are given some freedom with the day, they will find friends and enjoy doing things together.
If a child has too much structure and no free time, finding and keeping friends becomes the job of the parents, and it tends not to be natural and therefore not a very strong connection for the children.
This is the time that kids can foster fun friendships and learn how a relationship webs and flows. It is important that parents allow down time, free time and fun time for their kids during the summer. Let them seek out older friends or younger friends. Let them play. Let them make a great connection. Even if you know, it is just a summer thing. Each and every friendship we make and let go of helps us as global people to grow.
#2 Chameleon Kids