Friendships can be fun and so much more. They make life’s experiences more cherished and are essential for a healthy foundation in relating to others. By supporting your child's friendships you can help them build a strong foundation of skills that can foster life-long meaningful relationships.
“Young children will start building connections by playing near others, observing others at play, and responding to the emotions of others. As they grow, they will develop stronger connections with peers based on common interests, shared experiences, and exchanges of empathy,” says Christine Snyder, Director of Child and Family Care. “These relationships support life-long connections and make life’s fun experiences more memorable while providing support during life’s challenges. Family involvement during the development of friendships can help bridge a child’s home and social life for meaningful interconnectedness.”
Think back to your first friends and how much fun you had together. All of the time spent playing and laughing was planting a seed for your capacity to develop stronger connections at every stage of your life.
Here are five key things you can do to build the same capacity for your child by nurturing and supporting their friendships.
Encourage Social Interaction
Create opportunities for your child to socialize with others. This can involve playdates, joining clubs or sports teams, or participating in group activities. Encouraging your child to interact with peers helps them build social skills and form connections.
Teach Empathy and Communication
Teach your child how to understand and express their emotions effectively. Encourage them to listen to their friends and understand their feelings. This helps them develop empathy and good communication skills, which are essential for maintaining healthy relationships.
Model Positive Relationships
Children learn by observing their parents. Model positive relationships by treating others with respect and kindness. Show them how to resolve conflicts calmly and respectfully, which sets an example for their own friendships.
Provide a Safe and Supportive Environment
Create a safe and welcoming home environment where your child feels comfortable sharing their experiences and feelings. Be an active and empathetic listener when your child talks about their friends or any challenges they face in their relationships.
Encourage your child to make their own friends and choices when it comes to friendships. While guidance is essential, granting them the autonomy to choose their friends and manage their social interactions helps build self-confidence and decision-making skills.
Additionally, staying involved and informed about your child's social life, staying open to discussions about their friendships, and offering guidance when needed are important ways to support their friendships. By taking these actions, parents can play a significant role in helping their children develop and maintain positive and fulfilling friendships.
Suggested Resources to Learn More
The Importance of Supporting Friendships
- Helping children make friends: What parents can do - Harvard Health
- The Benefits of Early Childhood Friendships and 3 Tips for Helping Your Child Establish Meaningful Friendships — Exchange Family Center.
- How to Help Your Child's First Friendships Grow