Both mice and kids need friends
Yesterday, during a session with two of my parenting clients, they asked me again, "Why do you send your kids to school?" My answer was "Because kids are like mice - they need friends".
Research on mice and relationship has found that mice that spent their time with other mice live longer - as a matter a fact, twice as long - than mice who lived on their own.
Happy kids, just like happy mice, need company and this is the main reason for sending kids to school. It is not the academic achievements, although there are many teachers who may be able to teach my kids better than me. School develops skills essential to our development as human beings - social skills and our ability to relate.
Researchers have found that close contact with other mice causes the release of the hormone Oxytocin, which protects their heart and their blood from disease. They believe this is also true for humans. This close contact is so important that people have a higher rate of illness and even death in the year after the death of a close relative. This is why at funerals the relatives are at a greater risk.
There is plenty of research that supports relationship as a cure for illness, so I say that if I want my kids to be healthy, they need to have friends.
Having 15 students in a class is recommended to give the kids the range of the friendships experiences they need to stay healthy physically and emotionally.
Unless you have 15 kids at home (and who does), you cannot provide a good enough source of friendship for your children. Even a playgroup or home schooling group with 3-4 friends, which is better than having only Mom or one sibling as friends, does not come close to what school can provide socially.
How to support friendships between kids
- The best parents in the world cannot give kids social skills - do not try!
- A good relationship with a sibling is no substitute for friendship - do not expect it to be.
- 2-3 close friends are good for every child. Maintaining relationships is a challenge for grownups. If your kids have a few close friends - be happy! It is not the number but the quality of the friendships that matters.
- Make sure your kids have an opportunity to experience their relationships in your house as well as their friend's houses - they learn a lot outside their comfort zone.
- Teach your kids hosting skills - to allow their guests to choose the activities and to share their toys and games.
- Support your kids with cleaning up after game time. Kids will give up relationships if they have to clean up after their friends all by themselves. You can play "bad cop" and tell them to pick up and after a while, your kids will be able to say "At our house, we always pick up at the end of the game".
- When hosting friends, be sensitive to their needs. If they need direction, help them. If they need unsupervised time, give it to them.
- When hosting friends, stick to the rules. Your kids cannot trust you if you say something is important and then it is not because there is a guest in the house.
- When there are conflicts in relationships, talk to your kids about the reasons we associate with others and help them understand it is a two way street - we take good feelings from each other and sometimes we disagree, but it does not mean we have to stop the relationship because of the disagreement.
- Teach your kids to give to their friends - they can lend a helping hand, offer support, buy a gift, call to ask about a friend's health, bring homework, keep a seat next to them and so on.
Friendships are very important for every child's wellbeing and school is still the best place for friendships.
If you know of a better place, let everyone know through the comment box below.