Squirrel’s world is all about playdates right now. Friends coming to our place. Kids begging for her to come over. I love seeing Squirrel light up at these invitations and get that “kids like me!” glow that comes from feeling included. I’m so happy for her that she cares about making and keeping friends. What I don’t love, however, are the pick-up moments an hour later that are inevitably teary, frustrated good-byes after lots of misunderstandings.
For kids who have been adopted, friendship dynamics can be especially tricky. Small moments of rejection from a peer can trigger enormous feelings of hurt and abandonment that are more about losing their birth mothers. Sharing toys kicks up feelings of loss and fear that they’ll never be able to play with the things they love again. Play can be a lot of work!
Our Go Girls! Culture Code is full of friendship-building opportunities. And what’s the point of having Go Girls! as moms if you don’t get to hear these lessons over & over as your family values? Here is what Squirrel is working on, Go Girls! style…
I am a Go Girl! that means I…
Learning to be flexible, go with the flow and follow another kid’s lead is one of Squirrel’s biggest growing edges. She tries to feel safe by controlling every aspect of the play. What’ s helping? Coaching her friend to set a boundary and say, “I like to have my own ideas.” Then, cheering her on with tons of positive reinforcement. “Great job following your friend’s idea. That really keeps the fun going!”
GIVE and TAKE
For Squirrel, this has been literally about giving and taking toys at the end of playdates. After several gigantic tantrums at the end of special time with a friend, we realized Squirrel needed a transitional object to help. Finding friends that don’t mind swapping stuff to ease the good-bye has helped tremendously. Even a simple pencil will do! It helps her say to herself, “I have to see that friend again so I can give them this toy back.”
Every relationship has conflict, missteps and misunderstandings. Girls especially can feel like one argument can mean the end of a friendship. Not true! For Squirrel, we focus on the art of apology. She draws detailed “I’m sorry” cards that show the mistake she made. We coach her to give the picture to her friend and read the words she has written. A little gift, flower or hug are a great addition. Good apologies go a long way and help kids feel responsible for their actions and practice vulnerability.
FEEL OUR FEELINGS
Almost every challenging interaction I observe on a playdate is because one or both of the kids don’t understand what the heck is happening in a given moment. When I’m in the other room trying to do my thing but start to hear voices escalate, I know that’s an early cue they need my help. By stepping in before feelings turn into behavior, I can help both kids identify their feelings and practice communicating them effectively. Teaching the old “I feel…” statement is my favorite tool. I also like to ask each kid, “what do you need?” Surprisingly, they always have an answer and usually good ideas about how to meet the need.
My dream for my daughter is that she’ll get to feel safe to be herself in relationships and teach people how to treat her. Coaching her to speak up and set boundaries when something bothers her is important to build her confidence in relationships. In the past few weeks, I’ve helped her say…”If you keep telling secrets, than you’ll have to leave.” “Please stop throwing my toys.” “I said stop. I don’t like it,” and “Don’t scare me.”
As much as I want to use playdates as free babysitting for my kid, the truth is she really needs my help to get through an hour of play successfully. As her skills improve, I’ll back out more, but for now I’m happy I can be her friendship coach.