Working out friendships is an important part of childhood. Children's friendships do more than give them playmates today—they are key building blocks for growing into an adult. Friendships, for example, help children learn social skills, problem-solving skills, and self-confidence.
Children who have a loving, caring relationship with a parent have better relationship with classmates. What else can parents do to help their children make positive friendships?
- Make opportunities for your children to play and socialize. Inviting a friend to your house to play is one option. Organized group activities such as sports, dance classes, art or nature classes, or special-interest clubs are another. Some children who are shy may find it easier to make friends in an organized group than in a freeplay situation. Others may like it best when they can play one-on-one with a new friend in their own home.
- Respect your child's individuality. One child may like to have one "best friend" while another may be happiest with many different friends. What matters is what your child likes best, even if this is different from your own social style. While it is reasonable to be concerned about a child who seems to have no friends, many different friendship patterns can work for children.
- Talk with your child about social situations and their feelings and experiences with friends. Problem solve together when your child is having trouble with other children. Help your child learn empathy by talking about what others in a situation may have been feeling. Try to model a balanced approach to friendships. For example, you can sympathize with your child without blowing a problem with a friend out of proportion.
- Let your children and their friends solve problems themselves as much as possible. Children tend to have more conflict with their own friends than with other children. If a disagreement bubbles up when your child is playing with a friend, give them a chance to work it out before you step in to help.
- Talk to your school counselor if you are concerned about your child's relationships with other children. Children who are rejected or ignored by other children may like to talk with the counselor. They might also like ideas and resources the counselor may suggest.
Playing with soap bubbles is a fun activity for your child to try with a new or old friend. You can make them at home and experiment with different bubble wands. Have a contest to see who can make the biggest bubble, or who can make their bubble last longest. Be creative!
Source: National 4-H Cooperative Curriculum System, Inc. (n.d.). Acres of Adventure, Book 2. 4-HCCS BU-08331. Northern Design Group, MN.
Gurian, A. & Goodman, R.F. (December 2008). Friends and Friendships. NYU Child Study Center.
Gurian, A. & Pope, A. (November, 2007). Do Kids Need Friends? NYU Child Study Center.
Edited by: Rose Fisher Merkowitz, Extension Educator—Family and Consumer Sciences, Highland County; Kathy L. Jelley, Extension Educator—Family and Consumer Sciences, Brown County; and Scott Scheer, Professor and Extension Specialist—Human and Community Resource Development and 4-H Youth Development, The Ohio State University.