Fights between friends

19th May 2000 at 01:00
From nursery onwards, children will make special friendships. However, they can be volatile and, sooner or later, every teacher - at any stage of schooling - will have to deal with the effects of a friendship breaking down.

* If you say "go away and stop being silly", you are effectively telling the children that their feelings and relationships are of no account.

* Get the parties on their own and let them talk. Intervene only to calm hot tempers or to ensure each child gets his or her say. Your aim is not to patch up a broken friendship, but to help each child to understand the feelings of the other. The rest is for them to decide.

* Don't preac to agitated children about the nature and responsibilities of friendship. That's for a class lesson or assembly. For the moment they need to talk and listen to each other.

* Watch out for parental involvement. Protective parents can sometimes escalate children's disputes to the point where whole families become involved. Much better for children to see that the respective parents are still friends. You may have to suggest this.

* Do an assembly or a lesson on friendship. As part of this, offer the suggestion that friendships naturally, gradually and amicably break up and re-form as people grow and change.

Next week: the bereaved child

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