NURTURE INFORMATION HUB
MAKING FRIENDS & SUSTAINABILITY
Social development of children born very preterm: a systematic review
Kirsten Ritchie, Samudragupta Bora, Lianne J Woodward
Currently, a small but growing body of studies suggests that children born VPT are subject to a range of social and behavioural difficulties that may affect their life‐course opportunities
Some teenagers who were born too early or too small can handle the transition from early childhood to teenager effortlessly, while others might struggle with making and keeping friends. As the transition to teenage years begin, a lot of maturational changes occur - physical growth, sexual and emotional development, cognitive changes, mood, hormonal changes and self image development. Typical concerns of parents about safety may collide with teenagers need for independence. The transition through adolescence is a necessary process in becoming an independent young adult. However, this transition is stressful for teenagers and parents alike, and are even more so for children, teenagers and parents at developmental risk. Adolescence, particularly the late teens, is a time when formerly tiny babies could benefit with extra support to help them optimize meeting the goals of adolescence. Most teenagers have trouble in areas of attention, organisation, impulsivity, hyperactivity, emotionality, executive functions and motivation but some of these area's our ex-premature or small at birth babies are more vulnerable to and all of these area's impact developing peer relationships.
The good news is some skills needed to make friends that can be learned. But this will require some self-awareness, some guidance, and practice. Here are some tips for helping your teen improve their friendship skills:
Explore some self-reflection: “What qualities do you have that would make people want to be your friend?” How do you let people know about this value you have? What is important to you in a friend? This is better than just looking around for someone with common interests, helping teens discover what they value and how to attract this type of person where they might find this person through activities or places that this person would not be at too.
Remind your teenager not everyone will be your best friend forever. Teens who struggle with making friends tend to latch onto the first person who shows some attention. They may share too much personal information too soon or become jealous and insecure when their new best friend has other friends. There is a difference between a friend you know casually and a valued friend.
Teach your teen the art of conversation. Small talk is a learned skill. This can be difficult for teens who are a bit shy. Practice light casual conversations about easy topics such as music, activities outside of school, or homework. Keep it positive, and promote the value of listening more than speaking.
Help your teen understand that conflict is a normal part of relationships. Bouncing back after a disagreement, resilience is key to success. Not every argument means the end of a friendship. Help them understand the nonverbal cue’s so that a discussion can be followed better and walking away to cool off is not a bad thing. You can’t take back what you say so slow down when it heats up. Social media can be particularly tricky because things can be taken the wrong way without the value of someone’s expression and tone of voice. Facial cue’s can often be missed for kids vulnerable to ADHD and ASD too.
Be aware of your own judgments and opinions. If you don’t like your teen’s new friend and you believe your reasons are valid, be thoughtful about how you bring it up. Also as a parent be careful if you feel the need to criticize your teen’s friend, be sure to be specific about the behaviours you don’t like. If you notice them being treated badly by a friend, by all means speak up. Just make sure you do it in a way that is likely to be heard.
Help your teen value all relationships. Make sure your teen feels connected to you and other adults in their life. When teens have strong healthy relationships in their lives that they can count on, it becomes much easier to weather the roller coaster of teenage friendships.
Friendships during the teen years can be so important and be the best help navigating these years of 13 -17. Having someone to lean on, share secrets with, and be themselves with makes life better at any age. If your teen is struggling with friendships, remember that it can happen out of the blue some friends have just not been discovered. So during this gaps make sure your connection with them is strong, and guide them toward the skills they need to make the kinds of friends that will enrich their life.
If you are having trouble with your teenager and friendships your school guidance counsellor would be a starting point to direct questions to. Also, there is a better understanding now about the risks of friendship made on the internet and revealing to a stranger personal information. Developing a list of personal information so they understand how some people can target them with this information can help your teen understand these risks. There are online trolls and how to manage this behaviour. This will help you feel more comfortable once this information is understood by your teenager and can be more at ease knowing that this topic can be talked about.
Bullying can occur at this age. Teaching strategies to deflect this behaviour and when the behaviour has gone too far and when adults need to be involved. Keeping the open lines of communication will help you feel more at ease during this age and is good for them and yourself.