Do you remember your best friend from childhood?
Are you lucky enough to still have that best friend in your life now?
We often hear young children state, in no uncertain terms, that “Joanie is my best friend!” With that said, the two best friends become inseparable — linking arms, running together to the slide, playing side by side at the water table, sharing crayons and story books and organizing a special party for their baby dolls.
Just like we learn as adults, children learn that friendships can be solid and supportive as well as fragile and fleeting. The older a child gets the more aware they become of personalities, differences and goals set by other children. They also learn the many sides of having a friend and being a friend.
What kind of support can we offer young children just learning about friendship?
Always be positive when you talk about other children. Young children are forming opinions and are just beginning to understand that everyone is different than they are. Children will “read” your body language and facial expressions as well as listen to your words. Be kind and thoughtful when you talk to your child about classmates and neighbors. Don’t be the reason your child misses a lifelong connection. Friendships are critical to healthy development.
Listen to your child’s questions about other children. When your child tells you about events at school or in the neighborhood, consider all meanings. Are they wondering about another’s actions? Are they considering rewards and consequences of being the friend of another child? Are they able to understand expectations of friendships? Friendships require commitment
Talk it through. It’s hard to explain to a crying 4 year old why their best pal has played with another child all day and totally ignored them. Reassure them that everyone can play together and there is no need to be jealous. Never be tempted to insult or complain about another child to yours. Friendships have good and bad days.
Use the language of friendship. Point out your child’s friendly actions. Invite their favorite friend on a play date. Praise your child for being a friend to those around them. Read stories about friends. Encourage your child to color a picture or make a project as a partner with their friend. Tell your child about your friends and recall children you played with when you were young. Strong friendships take time.
Be a friend. Be kind and considerate to people you love in front of your children.
Your words and actions will always be the strongest support you can give to your child.
Make learning fun!
-Kate Dust, EduKids Education Director