Question: My daughter starts 4th grade in the fall. Some of her friends from this past year were bad influences—they made fun of kids in the class and would pressure my daughter to play tricks on those kids during recess. I want to start next year fresh by helping her choose better and nicer friends. How can I do that when I'm not there?
Answer: Just as with adult friendships, sometimes children end up with friends who don't share their moral code or treat others the way they do.
Assuming the friends from this past school year were mostly school friends—that is, your daughter won't see them much this summer—you have the opportunity to use the time away to teach her what qualities to value in a friendship and make new friends this summer.
For instance, look at your daughter's friends who you feel are good influences. What characteristics do they possess? Are they kind, compassionate, trustworthy, considerate? Talk to your daughter about those types of qualities, using her friends as examples.
"Angel always thanks me after we have her over for dinner. That shows she is grateful for our food and our company. What are you grateful for?"
In the same manner, you can start a conversation about negative qualities. Share a story from your childhood when someone treated you unkindly and relate it back to the friends who make fun of classmates.
"When I first got glasses, there were boys in my class who told me I was ugly and called me 'four eyes.' They hurt my feelings and made me cry. Did anyone in your class this year get glasses? Did anyone make fun of them? Instead of hurting their feelings, you can tell them you like their glasses and are happy they can see better!"
Then you can talk about what to do when classmates make fun of other people and talk about those values and traits that we want in our friends.
Use the summer to reinforce her friendships with positive people and when she starts back at school, remind her of the qualities we all want in our friends. If she finds her way back to the friends from this past year, make an extra effort to have these conversations.