Young Children Need Friends

Parenting January 22, 2014|Print

Parents want their child to get along with other children. But how important are friendships and how can parents help children develop good friendships?

Children with friends enjoy many benefits. Spending time with friends is fun and exciting for children! Friendships support children’s well-being and can help them handle different social situations. For example, from friendships with age-mates children learn…

  • social skills like sharing and taking turns
  • about fairness and following rules
  • how to negotiate, compromise, and cooperate with others

How to help your preschooler make friends:

Provide play opportunities. Seek out other parents and find playmates for your child. Giving your child the chance to spend time with other children will help him learn how to play with others and practice good social behaviors.

Arrange play dates with age-mates. Try to have a couple of consistent playmates for your child so that she can begin to form a bond with them.

Look for or set up a play group.  A play group gives your child the opportunity to learn skills for interacting with larger groups of children. This will be good practice for school.

Act like a kid and have fun with your child!  It may not always be possible for you to have regular play dates for your child, but consider yourself a playmate. Your child can practice social skills by playing with you too!

 

Teach your child social skills. Children who have social skills, like being friendly, taking turns, and showing kindness, have an easier time making friends. Learning and using positive social behaviors will help your child be someone other children want to spend time with.

Help your child notice positive social behaviors by pointing them out and describing them for him. “Oh look, your sister wants to share her toys.”

Notice when your child uses positive social behaviors. Reward her with your positive attention by describing her social behavior. “That was a friendly thing you did, letting your brother go first this time. Good job taking turns!”

 

Teach your child how to manage conflict. Conflict with friends and other children is common. You can help your child use some basic problem-solving skills to resolve conflicts.

Ask your child to describe the problem. Then restate it.

  • Child: “He won’t let me have the truck.”
  • Parent: “So we have two truck drivers, but only one truck.”

Help your child (and his playmate) think up some possible solutions.

  • Parent: “What can you think of to solve this problem?”
  • Child: “He can play with something else.”
  • Parent: “What else could you do?”
  • Child: “We could take turns driving the truck.”

Support and encourage positive solutions.

  • Parent: “Great! I’ll set a timer so you’ll know when to switch drivers!”

 

Be a positive role model. Remember, your child will learn a lot from observing you. Be sure to model the social skills you want to see in your child, both in your interactions with your child and with others.

 

Giving your child the chance to spend time with age-mates and teaching her positive social behaviors will make it easier for her to enjoy the benefits that come with making friends.

 

For Further Reading

From University of Georgia Extension -Tips for Parents: Helping Children Make Friends

From HealthyChildren.org- Social Development in Preschoolers

 

Author: Kelly M. Tu, Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University

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