Making Friends: Insights on Friendship from the World’s Leading Experts - Pt. 7b, Dana Kerford

How Kids Can Build Stronger Friendships

This week, we complete an overview series about how to make and keep friends. Previous posts have touched on topics like empathy, men’s friendship, unhealthy connections, first impressions, the significance of friendship, and friendshifts. Today, we’re pleased to continuing with Part 2 of our interview with Dana Kerford. (See Part 1 here.) Then, next week, stay tuned as we delve into a few mini-series on specific skill sets that are helpful for making friends. We’ll be starting with the ever-challenging skill of smalltalk.

Meet Dana Kerford

In case you missed last week, Dana Kerford is a teacher, friendship expert, and the founder of GirlPower & GoodGuys.

For more on Dana, check out last week’s post or this recent interview with the Sydney Herald.

Sarah: Last week we talked about your observations related to the way children form friendships. Eventually, these learnings inspired you to develop your URSTRONG friendship program. Tell us about it. How does it work?

Dana: URSTRONG is a social-emotional learning (SEL) program for students in grades 1 to 6. Through our in-school workshops and our educational curriculum designed for educators, Friendology 101, we teach children how to confidently manage the ups and downs in friendship.

The skills-based programming teaches girls and boys how to put a voice to their feelings, create healthy friendships, and build a solid foundation for future relationships. Along with learning what’s normal in a friendship and the difference between healthy and unhealthy friendships, students also learn and practice our proven step-by-step approach for putting out common Friendship Fires® (i.e. conflict) and how to combat mean-on-purpose behavior like a ninja (we call them Friendship Ninjas!).

The research clearly shows that children with healthy friendships perform better academically, have higher self-esteem, a more positive body image, get involved in more leadership roles, and make smarter decisions in future relationships.

URSTRONG has improved the social climate in hundreds of schools globally, teaching kids a common language for confidently managing conflict and creating a culture rooted in respect and kindness.

Sarah: What tricky dilemmas do you find are typically facing kids in their friendships?

Dana: First of all, one of the most fascinating things I have found is that it doesn’t matter where I am in the world, kids from all walks of life are dealing with a lot of the same issues. From low-income to the rich and famous, the story is the same. Kids want to be liked and they want to get along. The very first lesson that we teach children is Friendship Fact #1: No friendship (or relationship) is perfect. This is such an important concept for kids to understand because when they don’t understand that conflict is a normal part of a relationship, we hear them say, “You’re not my friend anymore.” They will immediately end a friendship at the first bump in the road. Helping them understand conflict is normal and they can survive it is so important. In our program, we call conflict with a friend a Friendship Fire® and teach them, step-by-step, how to put out these Fires.

Sarah: I really appreciate your time, Dana. Thanks for all you have shared. Anything else you’d like to share with our readers before you go?

Dana: Please feel free to check out my blog post on “Dos & Don’ts in Supporting Your Child Through Friendships.” For those interested, there’s lots of other great tips for parents and kids on the blog.

Special thanks to Dana Kerford for taking the time to share her insights with Huffington Post readers this week. Check back soon for a new mini-series on smalltalk. Or check out Truth or Dare: The Podcast That Boosts Your Social Health.

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