children good friends peers

Helping Children Be Good Friends to Their Peers

November 8, 2022
Helping Children Be Good Friends to Their Peers

There are several concepts that parents and educators alike will be heavily prioritizing for children as they grow and develop, and friendship is at or near the top of any such list. Forming and maintaining friendships is a major part of child development, and a big part of this that some children may need help with is learning how to become a good friend to peers. 

At First Steps Childcare & Preschool, this is just one of several important concepts we regularly focus on during our infant and toddler programs, preschool classes, kindergarten classes and other child care programs for families. For parents, educators and other caregivers alike, what are some ways to help children become good friends to those they connect with in their age range? Here are several basic tips.

Teaching Empathy

One of the single most important things to help your child become a good friend is learning how to be empathetic. Whether it's showing sympathy towards someone else who is upset or being sensitive to the needs of others, developing empathy skills early on can go a long way in helping children learn how to be considerate and compassionate friends.

For instance, you can model empathy when your child is upset by putting yourself in his or her shoes and expressing understanding of how he or she feels. You can also ask open-ended questions to encourage your child to think about the importance of being friends with others, as well as discuss ways they may be able to help a friend who is having a hard time.

For some parents, the best way of continuously teaching empathy involves regularly asking your child about certain situations or tasks, and then listening closely to their responses. This can be a great way of showing support while also encouraging your child to reflect on his or her own behaviors and attitudes as they relate to friends.

Be a Model of Good Behavior

Many kids, especially younger ones, will mimic virtually anything their parents or other caregivers do. So, if you consistently model good behavior in front of your child, he or she will likely emulate it when together with friends.

This can mean being respectful and kind to people you interact with on a daily basis, as well as being tactful and patient when dealing with problems that arise. Simply making an effort to always be positive and approachable can help your child develop good social skills, which he or she can then use to form friendships in the future.

In some other cases, your child may take on a different role model like a cousin, uncle or even a family friend. In these cases, using this person as a regular example of good behavior is a great way of teaching your child the importance of being a good friend.

Have Conversations About Conflict

While we all wish themes like friendship were always smooth sailing with no issues or concerns, the reality is that disagreements and interpersonal conflicts are simply part of a healthy social life.

As such, it's important to have regular conversations with your child about how to deal with conflict while still maintaining a good friendship. This can include open-ended questions like "How do you think we should handle this situation," as well as allowing your child to proactively approach you about any concerns or problems he or she may be having with a friend.

As your child gets older, it can also be wise to talk about ways of handling conflict in a way that doesn't involve resorting to aggressive behavior like name-calling and bullying. By talking through these types of situations together, you can help your child develop the maturity and interpersonal skills needed to maintain healthy friendships throughout his or her life.

Help Children Learn How to Apologize

One particular area that can be tough for some younger children to grasp is the concept of apologizing. If you see your child struggling with this in his or her friendships, it can be a good idea to talk about what apologies entail, and how they're important for maintaining good relationships both now and in the future.

This conversation could include talking about how apologies are not meant to make someone say 'I'm sorry', but rather to make a person realize they've done something wrong and how they can fix it. You could also consider role playing different scenarios in which your child may need to apologize or receive an apology, and then acting out the necessary steps to make amends with a friend.

Practice for Difficult Scenarios

Over time, you'll likely notice any areas where your child is struggling within the realm of friendship, such as constantly having disagreements with peers, being rejected by other children, or a tendency to be overly aggressive.

In these cases, it may be helpful to practice certain difficult scenarios in a calm and stress-free environment like your living room at home. This can include things like having your child pretend to be someone else who is being bullied, as well as helping him or her work out strategies to respond in a positive manner.

Of course, the most important thing is to always be open and supportive of your child's social life, while also being ready to step in and help them learn how to effectively handle any challenges they may face with friends. By supporting your child as he or she grows up and navigates the world of friendships, you're giving them a great chance at long-term happiness and success.

For more on the vital concept of child friendship, or to learn about any of our child care programs and how we'll serve you and your family, speak to our team at First Steps Childcare & Preschool today.

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