Friendships - February 2021

Pooh and Piglet, Batman and Robin, Buzz and Woody. These famous friends stick together through thick and thin! How can we help our child find good friends and teach them how to navigate the tough times that will inevitably come?4 kids sitting on a log by the beach, arm in arm

During the preschool and early elementary years children may gravitate towards certain friends but they also are usually able to play with whoever is in front of them at the moment. As children grow friendships can become a bit more complicated. Differences between boys and girls become a bigger deal. Girls may decide that playing with boys is for little kids. Boys may decide that it’s not cool to play with girls. Children become more aware of social status and conflict turns from “I had it first” to being excluded or gossiped about. Add to that children having access to social media at younger ages and there’s a whole other avenue for friendship struggles.

The development of friendship and social skills is as important as good nutrition and sleep. They are skills that will carry them into adulthood. Friendships give children a sense of belonging. Children may need help learning how to engage in play. Practice and role play with them. Teach them how to say “Can I play with you?” or “Do you want to play with me?” 

While we can’t necessarily choose our child’s friends, we can help support positive friendships, but it takes time. We can do this by getting to know their friends and their parents. Good communication between both families can be helpful in keeping the friendship strong and also when conflict arises. Organize play dates often and keep them short. A play date doesn’t have to be all day! 

When conflict does arise, consider it an opportunity for your child to learn and gain new skills. Friendship struggles will come and go all through life so giving your child ways to handle them will benefit them for years to come. What can they learn from friendship struggles? Negotiation skills, empathy, problem solving. Again, you can role play and help give them the words to use. Resist the temptation to solve it for them until they have had time to try themselves first. Try not to jump to conclusions when you have only heard one side of the story. Talk through the emotions that they are feeling to help them better understand themselves and others.

It can be challenging to find the time to invest in building good friendships, especially as families are busier and winter keeps us inside more. But as Winnie the Pooh says, “A friend is one of the nicest things you can have & one of the best things you can be.”