This weeks topic for #WASO (Weekly Adoption Shout Out) is friends.
Friends is always a cause for concern for any parent, for me, the worries that keep me awake in the small hours are different for each of my daughters.
Big girl has always found friendships difficult, partly due to her Autism and partly due to her past. Big girl lacks the skills to make and keep friends. Her need for control makes sharing difficult and her communication issues make even conversations difficult. Big girl and I recently started an Adaptive Skills course. The course is aimed at teaching her new/better ways to make friends. We’re 3 weeks in to a 6 week course and so far we’ve covered ‘Greetings’ ‘Conversations’ and ‘Friendships & Compliments’. One of the practical exercises in our last class was for each of the 8 children on the course to pair up with another child and share what they do that makes them a good friend, and what they could do better. Big girl paired up with a boy and after her initial shyness, giggling and noise making I prompted her to begin the conversation. ‘What makes you a good friend’ I asked. ‘Im good at sharing, I listen and I play the things my friends want to play’ she replied, ‘and what do you think you could do better?’ I prompted. ‘erm…………….nothing’. The little boys conversation went pretty much the same way. At the end of the session the little boys mother and I had a brief chat. ‘They already think they’re great at being friends so I cant see how this course is going to help them’ she remarked, ‘I agree’ I replied. Big girl doesn’t have any friends, she’s never been invited to a party, she’s never had a play date and often spends break times by herself. Yet if you ask her, she’ll tell you she has lots of friends, but she’ll lie awake at night knowing she hasn’t. So I share this mothers concerns, how will this course help them, if they ‘think’ they’re already doing all the things they’re being taught.
During reception class and the early part of Year 1 Middle girl used to be so popular, she was always greeted on the play ground each morning with a chorus of ‘good mornings’ from a huge array of children, mostly girls. She’s been on play dates and used to be inundated with party invites. Lately however things have changed, now nearing the end of year 2 she no longer appears to be so ‘noticed’ on the playground, the girls that used to call her name now walk on by, these days, she walks across the playground shouting the odd ‘good morning’ to a small handful of boys, who barely acknowledge her. So what changed!? Her peer group grew up. The girls she played princesses with on the playground now want to chat, and talk about the latest pop group or share some dance moves. Middle girl has a speech and language issue which can make conversations difficult, her conversation doesn’t flow like that of her peers, its fragmented and often doesn’t make sense. Her desperation to please and fit in is just an added pressure to make ‘finding the words’ more difficult. So these days she plays mostly with the boys, she cant tell you there names, or what they play just that she plays with them. She hasn’t had a party invite for over a year now and the play dates dried up in year 1.
Baby girl has great social skills, she can be kind, she can listen and she can hold a great conversation. However the chaos inside her, craves more chaos which draws her towards the more difficult children. She’s drawn to the children that lead her in the wrong direction, the children that fulfill her need for chaos yet terrify her at the same time. Baby girl isn’t yet ready for play dates I feel, which is good because she’s not been invited to any, and the party invitations have dwindled. Its no surprise though, and its perfectly understandable, I’m not sure I’d encourage my child to play with a girl that was so disruptive in class and ‘known’ to be in so much trouble all the time. I know the other side to her though, I know inside she is a kind and gentle, frightened little girl that so desperately wants to find her place in the world around her. She’s lost, torn and confused by the love that surrounds her and the chaos within her. She’s not ready to lead just yet, so for now she’s being led.
In childhood, friendships are often based on the sharing of toys, and the enjoyment received from performing activities together. These friendships are maintained through affection, sharing, and creative playtime. While sharing is difficult for children at this age, they are more likely to share with someone they consider to be a friend (Newman & Newman, 2012). As children mature, they become less individualized and more aware of others. They begin to see their friends’ points of view, and enjoy playing in groups. They also experience peer rejection as they move through the middle childhood years. Establishing good friendships at a young age helps a child to be better acclimated in society later on in their life (Newman & Newman, 2012).
Its hardly surprising my girls struggle, they’re busy putting all their emotional and physical energy into keeping themselves safe in school, they don’t have anything left for ‘Friendship’.