Boys helping each other up a hill.

Parents and carers are there to support our children. We encourage them and help them when they need it. We cheer-lead and advocate for them and do what we can to support them.

But parents are not the only ones who are supportive of children. Hopefully, their friends are supportive of them too. Some children will expect their friends to cheer them up when they are unhappy and make sure they are okay. They expect their friends to stand up for them when others call them names or are unkind. They want their friends to say, ‘Well done’ when they succeed at something.

What if their friends are not like this? Maybe they need to look for friends who are encouraging and aware of others so that they feel supported. Or it may be that their friend doesn’t really understand how to be supportive.  Children and teens may not have experience of being supported themselves so don’t know how to reflect it to others.

In that case, your children could model what being supportive looks like as an example.  Or perhaps your children aren’t supportive of others themselves?   If your child isn’t celebrating their friends successes or helping to cheer up a friend when they are down, they need to learn how to be supportive. They cannot expect it support if they can’t offer it themselves so try the following tips to get them thinking about the action they can take:

Learning to be Supportive

Ask your children what would they like their friends to say/do when they do well at something like a sporting event, new activity or school project.  What encouraging words have they already heard and enjoyed?

Ask them what they want/expect their friends to do when they are unhappy.  What would they consider a helpful or sympathetic response?

Ask them how they feel when friends do any of the things they mention.  What are the positive benefits? Do they feel happier, calmer, listened to, cared about and supported?

So if having supportive friends makes them feel like this, then how would it make others feel?

Then get them to model the speech and actions you’ve discussed. They cannot expect other children to display behaviours they don’t show themselves. Friendship is about give and take so they must be willing to support others too.  True friendship builds gradually as two people continue to support each other through both good and bad times.  We learn who we can turn too and who we cannot.

Being a good friend and supporting others is a great life skill. We can support people even if they aren’t a close friend – who knows, our support may lead to a life-long friendship.  Help your child learn how to be a supportive friend and recognise those traits in others – it will help them to build strong friendships as they grow into adulthood.