Recently in one of my training seminars, I had a mom share that her son currently had no friends. There is such heartbreak in sharing such a statement! I felt for this mom, and so we took a moment to take a snap-shot of who was in her son’s life. We started by reviewing the concept that social connections include a variety of types of relationships. Frequently, support teams and families focus only on “friends” but it is important to remember that there can be all types of influences that lead to a sense of belonging! Together we took a look at the following possible connections for her son:
Family relationships which include parents, siblings and extended family. Family matters!
Customer relationships are people we pay for services and are an important connection, such as our child’s teacher, child care provider, doctor, babysitter and any support staff.
Membership relationships exist in places we regularly attend based on the role we have. I often say that this is where your name is written down somewhere. School, 4-H Club, swimming lessons, hockey, dance, church or Brownies might be examples.
Community relationships are the people we connect to as we journey – our neighbours, the kids on our school bus, and the other families in soccer.
Friend relationships develop with people whom we have met repeatedly due to roles in life, but now we are connected to them because they care about us and are interested in our life. This type of relationship takes time. It does not come easily for some children (and some adults too). Part of this dynamic is also supporting your child to be a good friend in return.
In turned out that this mom’s son did have lots of positive connections and relationships in his life. They were going to try and celebrate that, while still supporting him to connect with more peers his own age. Watching your child experience loneliness is heartbreaking. Don’t give up. Slow down and look around at the people who surround them and simply start there. Celebrate what is already working. Remember, the community is everywhere!