How to Encourage and Model Good Friendships for our Children

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How to Encourage and Model Good Friendships for our ChildrenHow to Encourage and Model Good Friendships for our Children

During the preschool years of child development, children begin assuming a sense of morality and accountability. They are no longer egocentric two year olds. Instead, they are learning cooperation and they are able to recognize individual and cultural differences between people. It is then that we must teach our children how to make good friends. We must model appropriate social skills, such as helping, sharing, cooperation, and positive communication, along with strategies for anger management and conflict resolution, which will help to foster good friendships.

We must encourage the beginnings of positive friend choices by teaching our children the characteristic traits of a good friend. Explain that a good friend displays loyalty, kindness, and respect for others. A good friend is happy for you when good things happen to you , like if you win a race or you have a birthday. Teach your children that true friends are steadfast and do not gossip behind your back. Consistently communicate with your children about how they can be good friends, and cultivate a sense of empathy in your children through open, non-judgmental dialogue. For example, your child comes home and says: “Mom, today Jack beat up Jennifer. Jennifer was bleeding but she didn’t snitch on him to the teacher.” Many parents will immediately jump to, “Who is this Jack? Did he get punished?” But instead of focusing on the big bad bully only, turn the focus on the victim. Tell your child, “Wow that must have been so painful for Jennifer. How do you think you can be a good friend? How can we stop bullying?” All these type of conversations are part of a process. You are nurturing value system through which children will learn to choose the right friends on their own without intervention.

But many times the shy child will need some discreet parental intervention to foster new friendships. Invite over your child’s classmates, arrange play dates and make sure to purchase toys and games that are friendship building. You can try to have around the house different toys that your child will turn to and need friends to play with it so it will encourage him/her to want to develop new friendships. You can try some outdoor activities that require cooperation and coordination from a few children such as the parachute or tricycle for two. Or for some indoor quiet activities you might think of purchasing games some inexpensive Melissa and Doug games such as the Deluxe Magician Set or a Monster Bowling Game.

Remember, that giving your children the power to choose their own friends and develop wholesome, positive friendships is one of the biggest gifts a parent can give their child.

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