What is a friend? Your buddy, a confidant, someone with whom you share a bond. I was thinking about this definition and wondering if it’s the same for a young child. Who would your child say is their friend?
Friendship is an important part of your child’s social and emotional development. These relationships help your child build her/his sense of empathy and confidence. Friends also help with your child’s language development.
Being a good friend is a life skill. Like all skills, friendship skills need to be learned. The concept of being a great friend to have great friends is especially important for children to learn. It is also a concept that will take you some work to help your child understand and practice. Young children need time and encouragement to master the skills of being a friend.
Tips to Prepare Your Child for Friendships
- Practice taking turns when you play with your child. Use prompts like “my turn” and “your turn.”
- Offer praise, like “thank you for sharing with me” when they behave in a friendly way.
- Practice taking turns when you have conversations with your child. Give them time to respond to questions or comments and encourage them to give you time to respond.
- Read books about friendship. I’ve listed some of my favorites below.
- Model positive social skills – listening, not talking over someone, saying please and thank you, asking how they are, etc.
- Set up a video-chat with family or friends.
- Ask your child to draw a picture as a gift for a family member or friend.
Tips for a Successful Playdate
- Keep a playdate short – 45 minutes is good.
- Limit participants. Two is an optimal number for a playdate. This decreases over-stimulation.
- Make sure your child has eaten and has taken a nap. Being hungry or tired makes us all cranky.
- Choose specific toys for playdates and put away favorite toys before a playdate.
- Choose an activity where your child plays side-by-side with a friend.
- Stay where your child can see you. This gives them comfort and stability.