Action talk

Many children don't know how to be friendly, to make and keep friends. This means that you don't choose true friends. When you need friends, they've disappeared or do nothing. Besides, when you have friends, even if they are a bunch of ' nerds', you are less likely to be targeted because you belong to a group and you're not a loner.

Using feedback as your guide, use this simple recipe:

• Ask questions - prepare five for girls and five for boys, e.g. about sport, shopping, music, weekends. Just ask the question and do some ' noddies'. They will think you are being friendly.

• Chat - talking about simple, everyday things builds trust.

• Show interest - people like people who like them and who are like them. You can still show interest even though it's not your thing -television presenters do it all the time. Listen carefully and make connecting statements to show you are connected to them.

• Share empathy - this builds a real connection and is the basis of caring friendships. Friends show real care for one another and say what they think, feel and want.

• Deal with feedback and conflict - everyone has different ideas. Even friends need to discuss, negotiate and find a resolution. When you express your opinion, you get equal power and you block bullying.

• Plan - 'Let's do...'. You need to make arrangements and spend time regularly with friends, either on the phone, via the Internet or in person to build a friendship.

Practise'I' Statements at home

Askyour child to tell you how he is feeling about something that is upsetting him. Reply in a way that provides him with practice in dealing with people who care and people who don't care. Here are some examples:

Child: 'Mum, I'm angry that you forgot to wash my sports clothes.'

Adult: 'I know that you are annoyed, but I warned you last week that this would happen if you didn't do your chores.'

Child: 'Everybody is going away for the holidays. Why can't we go somewhere?'

Adult: 'I would love to go away, too, but we can't afford it this year.'

Child: 'I feel very bad when you yell at me.'

Adult (caring): 'I didn't know. You never told me before.'

Write down five skills that you need to practise to become friendly, fun, cool and confident.

Kids activity

Table talk

Get the family to sit around the dinner table at meal times. Table talk is one of the best ways to encourage your child to develop communication skills, share what is happening, and plan action. Give everyone the opportunity to talk.

• Don't ask, 'How was school today?' Ask who he played with at lunch or recess, or what he did. Find out if anything funny or good happened or if he's stressed or upset about something.

• Regularly invite others to join you and provide your child with more table-talk practice.

• If your child's other parent lives elsewhere, encourage them to meet for a meal regularly.

• Give your child the opportunity to challenge you with his beliefs or about something he wants changed, such as homework, chores or privileges. Encourage him to argue, debate and negotiate a resolution with you.

Key points

■ Effective communication skills block bullying and help you make more friends.

■ Communication skills involve your eyes, face, body language, voice and words.

What to do

• Get help to project a positive, confident image - don't be scared, be prepared.

• Practise assertive communication skills.

• Look for small changes in behaviour.

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