Learning how to be a friend and navigate social settings is an essential part of any child’s development. It’s a skill that is developed over time throughout childhood and beyond.
As a parent or an educator, we can build confidence in children and help to foster relationships that will build into friendships over time. Like adults, children look for similar interests in new friends. It's important that children are provided opportunities to role play and observe good interactions that are associated with friendship. If we trust their capacity to learn and understand, we can expand our children's worlds and help create a friendlier future.
Four friendship-worthy traits to teach your child:
Children need guidance in understanding cooperation as they begin to transition from solitary play to social play. Providing real-life learning opportunities is a fantastic way to help your little one develop this important skill.
Encourage your children to have ownership of processes or situations. For example, include them in deciding their routines. Use phrases such as: “How do you want to travel to your bedroom? Would you like a piggy back ride, or do you want to crawl?”
For even younger children, who might be playing beside one another but with minimal interactions, schedule playdates with one other child. Keep the playdate short and small, and your little one will be more relaxed and willing to participate.
Respect is an important quality to teach our children, especially when it comes to building friendships. Role modeling is the best way to demonstrate respect. By modeling kindness, honesty and consideration, children will learn respect for themselves and others.
Try this fun family activity: on a chalkboard or poster board, create a “We Will” board. List each family member’s name and have a group discussion about ways each individual can show respect. This activity will create accountability for each family member while also providing positive role modeling for your preschooler. Come back to the board periodically to discuss or adjust the responses.
The ability to share can teach children critical thinking, self-regulation, and conflict resolution skills. But learning to share happens developmentally over time.
The concept of giving up a toy you love for someone else to enjoy isn’t exactly thrilling, especially to little ones. But we have to help our children understand that it's only temporary, and that they might even find it to be a positive experience.
Instead of forcing your children to share, provide opportunities for them to practice. Bring a timer with you on play dates, and set a reasonable time limit for each child’s turn. If the children have difficulty swapping, explain that it’s time to take turns but they can go back to their original toys once the timer rings again.
As always, reading is a great tool. Talk with your children about the fictional scenarios and allow them to demonstrate their generosity by brainstorming solutions and outcomes. Some recommended books to teach children about sharing include:
It’s not always easy, but teaching our children to find the joy in generosity and to be good givers and receivers will serve them well as they navigate their social relationships.
The best way to teach our children anything is to be a role model, and this is especially true for attentiveness. Our little ones are our shadows—they’re always observing and learning how to show up in the world based on our actions. At Kiddie Academy, our educators know this, and they ensure their classrooms provide an opportunity to learn about and develop these real-world skills.
Remember to show the four traits of friendship (cooperation, respect, sharing and attentiveness) towards others, yourself and your children. Your youngsters will naturally learn to do the same.