NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Your Child's Friends

Your Child’s Friends


                Do you remember your first friend?  Was it a classmate?  A neighbor?  Are you and that person still friends?  Making friends is an important part of child development. . As children grow, friendships take on new meaning.

                Parents can be helpful in coaching their children to treat people in a friendly manner, arranging playdates and staying nearby to help kids learn social skills.  Here are a few concrete ways parents can help young children establish and maintain friendships.

                Starting from the preschool years, be present and available when your children are playing with others. You can provide instruction about sharing and resolving conflicts without hitting, threatening or demeaning friends. These early play times allow you to see how your child interacts with other children and highlights your child’s internal social strengths and challenges

                  Teach children how to enter play. Children who barge into the room and kick down all of the block towers are hard to tolerate. Likewise, kids who don’t try to engage with anyone are easy to ignore. Instead, teach your child to start by watching what the other kids are playing and then asking to join as an “extra,” such as the puppy in a game of pet store.

                 Some children can be slow to warm up to new situations. If that is the case, sit with your child and make suggestions but don’t push. Most kids join in the fun on their own time.  Children who know a friendly greeting such as, “Hi, I’m _____. What’s your name?” and “What are you playing?” are more likely to be quickly accepted.

                 Another set of friendship skills revolves around being positive: sharing toys and conversation time, cooperating, using compliments and good manners. Getting along with others sometimes requires giving other people the first turn or the biggest piece, which can be difficult for young children. 

                Welcome your child’s friends to your home. Be sure that they know and are able to follow the rules of your home. If speaking with respect and asking permission to have a snack is a core value in your family, be sure that your child’s friends can accept and accommodate these rules.

                Some children will identify a best friend. This can be a great arrangement, as the duo can take on new challenges and bounce ideas off one another. Knowing your child’s best friend’s family can be helpful. Early best friends allow you to start the dialogue about the lifelong challenge of balancing time with close friends, groups of friends, and family.

                Peer relationships are the most important relationships, beyond the family, to teach children empathy. You can help your child identify how he/she feels when a friendship creates a disappointment and help him/her identify their own emotions, such as feeling rejected, angry, hurt, or sad, and then pay attention to the larger social interaction.

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