Tag: friendships

Building Healthy Friendships

Children on the grass laying in a circle
(Photo from Wikipedia- Creative Commons license):

As a nurse, I enjoy helping people to lead happy, healthy lives.  Having friends is one way we can make our lives more joyful. Friends can talk and relax together, and have fun together! Having friends is not always easy, though.  We do not always know everything we need to know about how to make friends. We also may not know how to be a good friend.

Here are a few tips to help.

  • If you would like to make new friends, tell somebody! Find somebody you trust, like your mom, dad, brother, sister or caregiver. They can help you think about:
  • What you are looking for in a friend.
  • Things you like to do, and things you may want to try.
  • If you like to spend time with groups of people or if you like to spend time with one person at a time.
  • Make a plan for making friends! Think about places you to go and things you like to do near where you live.
  • You can look in the local newspaper or web sites for special events and activities that interest you.
  • Maybe try joining a sports team or try a fitness class like Zumba or karate.
  • Volunteer at a school or soup kitchen and you can make friends and help other people at the same time!
  • Do you like to read or watch movies? You could start a movie or book club.
  • Practice! It may sound silly, but sometimes making new friends can make us feel nervous.

Try to practice talking to a make-believe new friend in front of a mirror or with a person you trust. Then, when you meet a new friend, you will have ideas of what to say.

This can make you feel less nervous.Then you can enjoy yourself when you are with a new friend!

  • Get ready! This will help you to feel good about yourself when you meet someone new.
  • Make sure you are clean and fresh with good personal hygiene.
  • Wear clean clothes that you feel good wearing.
  • Comb your hair and brush your teeth!
  • Keep working at it! Making new friends can take time. It can take a few visits with a new friend to feel comfortable together.
  • Talk with your friend about how often you would like to see each other.
  • You can talk about what you both like to do, and take turns choosing what you do or where you go.
  • Ask for help! Sometimes friends do not always agree. This is normal! People are not exactly the same and do not always like the same things.
  • If you and your friend disagree try to focus on the things you have in common.
  • If you are having trouble with a friend, talk to somebody you trust about it. They may be able to help you and your friend work through the trouble.
  • Know the signs of a bad friendship.

A friend should NOT:

  • Make fun of you or call you names
  • Hit you or touch you in a way you do not like
  • Lie or tell you things that are not true
  • Always want to know where you are and what you are doing
  • Keep asking for money or gifts

Tell somebody you trust right away if a friend is doing one of these things! You can choose not to be friends with a person who treats you this way.

Making new friends may seem hard at first. You may need to give it a few tries to find someone you have things in common with. Keep trying and soon you will be relaxing and having fun and enjoying time with your new friends!

For more information, visit:  Widening the Circle

When You Need A Friend

happy young girls raising hands together in park.
Childhood friendship

Making and keeping friends is hard for anyone. This seems to become more difficult when people have a disability involving communication, the characteristics of which are “deficits in using communication for social purposes” or “persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts.” Most kids can say they have friends in the neighborhood, school friends or church friends. For kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Social (pragmatic) Communication Disorder, developing friendships requires a lot of effort and provokes anxiety. It appears that the parents or teachers must make efforts to create friendships. I have been creating such friendship opportunities for my children all through their lives. When my daughter was young and attending an inclusion classroom, I called parents of typically developing children to arrange play dates for her. Some parents were really nice and met me half way by bringing their child to play with mine or meet her at the playground. I also called parents of the other children with special needs in the classroom. Those were the ones that happily met me all the way, for they were experiencing the ostracism that comes from having social skills challenges. Of course, that was possible as long as we were attending the local school. When my child was placed out of district, it became more difficult to have play dates and it required a lot of effort and strategic planning. Teachers had to be convinced of the need for friendships so that they would share our telephone number with a child that my daughter talked about at home. Then, we needed to call the parent, introduce ourselves, explain our situation and suggest a meeting place that was neutral and equidistant. Seeing a friend involved travelling, visiting, travelling and avoiding a meltdown.
Many times I questioned who really wanted the friends – my daughter or me? Did I want for her something that I thought all other kids had? Was she happy with one or two friendly acquaintances or did she need several friends? She is now an adult and still friendships continue to be hard. She needs help navigating the adult social world, where there are more unspoken conventions than in the children’s world. Participation in activities that are not located in our town means that she meets people from other towns and since she doesn’t drive, she needs transportation to and from meeting places. However, now that she is an adult, she can tell me that friendships are important to her and we make all possible efforts for her to see friends. That is something we can all understand as we all need friendships. What is hard to understand is that as children with disabilities become adults the opportunities that they have to make friendships with neurotypical individuals are almost nonexistent. There are programs organized by disability organizations to encourage socialization. Such activities are usually attended by people with disabilities and not many neurotypical individuals attend. Furthermore, those neurotypical individuals who do attend are often younger – they notice less the symptoms of socially and communicationally challenged persons, especially their lack of maturity. Yet younger neurotypical children do not serve as peer with age-appropriate interests. We must continue to look for opportunities to provide individuals with disabilities the opportunities to make meaningful social interactions in the communities where they live. I am not sure how to accomplish this but I think the Real Lives bill might be a step forward.