Helping Kids Develop Friendships Early On
By Sandy Kauten
- Interacting with friends allows children of all ages to learn social skills like sharing, taking turns, paying attention to the needs of others and showing empathy.
- Positive play with friends can encourage young kids to improve their big motor and verbal skills.
- Tweens and teens depend on friends for a sense for belonging, acceptance and social support.
- Friendships give kids a chance to practice and solidify their own sense of identity, challenge and strengthen their belief systems and learn about other’s beliefs, cultures and families.
- Good friends (even one or two) can help create a buffer against depression and anxiety in teens.
As parents, we can help our kids form and maintain healthy friendships by encouraging them to seek out friends who build them up and make them feel happy and positive. Be willing to arrange playdates, as well as attend school and other group activities where your child will have a chance to meet their peers. Encourage your child to join activities that promote interaction and bring together kids who have similar interests and also diverse interests.
Encourage healthy friendships
Identifying the difference between positive friendships that build a child up and toxic friendships that drag them down is an important life skill for kids (and adults) to learn. Help your child recognize strong friendships by talking about attributes you appreciate in people, like kindness and trustworthiness. Invite your child’s friends to join in family activities. And be ready to help your child cope with negative friend experiences when they arise (without being too meddlesome).
As children age, they often spend more time with friends than with
parents, so it’s critical that we help them learn how to build a village that
will support them as they grow.
By Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Eugene Pediatric Associates, Eugene Oregon