An interview with authors Alesia Montgomery and Laura Buddenberg
For many children (and adults), the countdown to summer break is on their minds beginning in early spring. As the school year winds down, kids look forward to sleeping in, playing in the sun, not having homework, and much more!
If you live in a neighborhood with other children the age of your own children, informal get-togethers and hangouts are probably more common. But if you happen to live in a neighborhood without many children, or where hanging out outside isn’t an option, maintaining friendships over the summer can be a difficult task. Summer friendships are important because you want to continue the connection that children established throughout the school year with their friends! But finding a time to get together with friends can often be complicated by summer sports practices, camps, summer school, work schedules, and other activities.
So, how can you help?
1. What are some simple tips for kids to maintain friendships over the summer months?
AM: Prior to summer break, let your friend(s) know you would like to keep in touch over the summer. Make some tentative plans together, and then be sure to let your parents know that you’d like to set up a time to hang-out.
Join a league, club or summer camp with a friend over the summer.
Invite friends over for a movie night or some neighborhood event.
LB: For more impromptu get-togethers, kids who are old enough can call or text each other and make plans to meet at specific times/places.
It also is not unusual for kids to take their friends along on family trips or outings—just make sure to get permission from both sets of parents first.
2. Why do you think it’s important to promote and maintain friendships throughout the summer?
AM: Kids need to continue the connections that they’ve established throughout the school year with friends.
Kids will get to observe and learn the other sides of their friends in a completely different setting – outside of the classroom.
LB: True. Remember, kids enjoy their friends, and it helps sustain those relationships if they don’t take a long summer break from each other.
It makes the transition back to school in the fall a bit easier.
3. For younger kids, without cell phones, it’s difficult to keep in touch with friends over the summer! What are some suggestions that you can offer parents/guardians to help support friendships throughout the summer?
AM: Get to know other parents throughout the school year by volunteering to help at softball games, Girl or Boy Scouts, or a PTA. That way, you can get to know some parents and other children as well. This will provide opportunities to discuss possible group activities that children can join together during the summer months.
LB: That’s right. Parents can get in touch with each other, compare family summer schedules, and plan for specific dates/times when their kids can get together. It helps to be proactive; that way, kids can look forward to being with their friends, and parents can schedule “friend time” when they know they can provide transportation and supervision.
4. During the school year, friends spend most of their time together in a classroom – where social skills and expectations are prevalent and often enforced. When kids leave the classroom setting, how can they remember friendship-specific skills such as “expressing empathy,” “disagreeing appropriately,” or “laughing at oneself” in order to surround themselves with the right people, and be a good friend?
AM: Parents can help children remember to use those positive friendship skills by reviewing and practicing them with their children on a regular basis over the summer. The Friend Me! book has numerous friendship skills parents could select from. In order for kids to generalize social skills outside of the classroom setting, parents should look for opportunities to praise their kids when they do use these friendship skills at home, with friends, etc.
Parents could create a contest to determine how many times their child uses specific skills each week and the child could earn a reward at the end of the week if they used the minimum number of predetermined skills.
LB: Keep in mind, kids are more likely to use their friendship skills when parents remind them of those skills and coach them before they get together with friends. It helps to ask kids what they think they do well as a friend, as well as what they find frustrating about friendships. That way, parents can help think about what they’d like to maintain and what they’d like to change in their behavior towards friends.
5. How can kids use Friend Me! to maintain their friendships over the summer, and throughout the school year?
AM: There are 10 chapters in the Friend Me! book. Parents could start a Friend Me! book club reading session one week per month to discuss each chapter. This could include a role-play, Q & A, and most of all, asking their child to explain how these skills could assist them in making and keeping friends. Optional: Your child could invite his/her friends over to the book club and provide treats. They could answer questions in the book together and role-play.
Parents could take this to the next level by rewarding their children when they use these skills or coaching them to remember to use them.
Hopefully, kids will eventually start to report to parents how these skills have helped them to become a better friend.
LB: Friend Me! is a great tool to help parents navigate challenging friendship conversations with their children, It has great suggestions for activities, conversation starters, and how to make good friendships even better, as well as tips for spotting “friendship trouble”.
For more tips and tricks on fun and friendship, check out Friend Me! 10 Awesome Steps to Fun and Friendship.