From the Principal’s Pen – February 2019
Submitted by: Jennifer McGee, Principal of Atwood Primary School
Good friends help you to find important things when you have lost them…your smile, your hope and your courage.
Many years ago, the husband of one of my best friend’s was dying. Obviously, it was the most horrible time of her life, and a small group of us felt helpless knowing how she was suffering during his illness. She lives in Canada, and the rest of us are from different towns in Maine. As he neared end-of-life, we made a decision.
We all jumped in my minivan and we drove directly to her house, 12 hours away. We had all been camp counselors together decades before, and one of the activities we were involved in each year was the 4th of July parade. We were “majorettes” in the parade, twirling batons and marching to the music.
Once we arrived at the bottom of her street in Canada, we phoned her son and asked him to bring her outside onto her front porch. We then stepped out of my minivan that was parked at the end of her road, blew a whistle and marched, twirling our batons, right to her doorstep.
Twenty years later, she will say that she will never forget that moment when she stepped outside and her girlfriends were all there to embrace her in her time of need.
Some of the very most important skills learned in school are how to acquire friendships and how to learn to be a good friend. This is often a joyful time in parent’s lives, as frequently your children’s friends’ parents become your friends as well! It can also be a difficult and anxiety- provoking time for parents because there are always ups and downs and emotional bumps and bruises in the world of childhood friendships.
According to the resource betterparenting.com, people with healthy friendships in their lives are 22% more likely to live a longer life. As a parent, modeling healthy relationships is one of the best ways to teach your children how to foster healthy friendships in their own lives. Some of the best tips for helping your children navigate the “world of friendships” are:
- Talk with your children about why you value the friends you have.
- Show your children how to be a good and supportive friend. When your friend is ill, bring your friend a meal and talk to your child about how you support your friendships. If you send your friend a card to cheer him/her up…have your child sign it as well.
- Admit to your child when you make a mistake as a friend and teach them how you make amends and explain the importance of saying “I’m sorry” when you are remorseful.
- Help your child recognize healthy components of relationships they are forming…”I notice when you are with Johnny, you have a lot of fun and a lot of things in common.” But also, point out when you see unhealthy aspects of a relationship you may notice…”I notice when you are with Johnny, you are not making safe choices.”
Naturally, no relationship exists without some speed bumps! I always told my children, we have different friends for different reasons. No one person will ever fill every single role. I encouraged my children to enjoy each friend for the special gift that friend brought into their lives. Some friends are good listeners; some are good talkers. Some friends are funny; some friends are sweet. Some friends are artistic; some friends are athletic. You get the picture.
There may also be times when you need to encourage your child to spend less time with a friend. If you find some friendships deteriorate your child’s self-esteem, or change your child’s behavior (for the worst), perhaps less time is better…for now.
My final thought about friendships for this Principal’s Pen is to always encourage your child to be kind. Even if they need to stand up for themselves or advocate for themselves, it can be in the spirit of kindness. “I can’t play with you right now, because this is making me feel sad or frustrated or upset.” This sort of self-advocacy recognizes that it is not a good time to play but it is not filled with blame or hatred…just that it is not feeling right or good…for now.
Just as primary school experiences build the foundation for strong reading and writing and mathematical skills…it is also the training ground for how relationships are built and fostered. My hope for your children is that they will begin to form wonderful friendships that will continue to bring them joy all the way through their educational journey…
And who knows? Perhaps one of those friendships formed at Atwood Primary School will end up being that friend who marches up to your child’s doorstep in a time of need decades from now…
Dates to Note in February:
Thursday, February 14: Valentine’s Day…make sure you know your child’s classroom plan
Monday, February 18 – Friday, February 22: NO SCHOOL…WINTER BREAK
Please check out the hand out we are providing for Bedtime Math: A free and wonderful app to practice math at home. Help us create a school filled with clever mathematicians!!