How to Help Your Child Be a Good Friend
Returning to attending school in person is an exciting change. It may also bring stress and social anxiety for many children. There couldn’t be a better time to talk with your kids about what it means to be a good friend. And to talk with them about the damage that bullying causes.
Little kids have the funniest ideas sometimes! Here’s one that took me by surprise: Some kids think they can have only one friend at a time. For example, Chloe might really like Sophia and spend a lot of time with her. But when Chloe meets a new fun person, she rejects Sophia because she doesn’t understand it’s okay to have more than one friend at a time.
You can help your child understand friendship by telling them about the relationships you have with friends. You might explain, “I’ve known Marta since high school, but I met Lori when you were a baby.” That can help your child learn it’s important to nurture and protect their existing friendships as they make new ones.
This might be a good time to teach your child the old Girl Scout song Make New Friends!
Make new friends, but keep the old
One is silver and the other gold.
A circle is round, it has no end
That’s how long I want to be your friend.
Here is my hand, and here is the other
Let’s put them together and we have each other.
Here are some other ways to help young children navigate their friendships.
Welcome their friends
Foster your child’s friendships!
- Set up play dates and encourage them to invite kids they like to your house.
- Help your child’s new friend feel comfortable. Greet them by name, and tell them how glad you are to see them.
- Pay attention to how the play date is going. Offer ideas for activities if needed. Feed them snacks!
- Take time to praise the kid’s behavior after the play date, and tell the other parent it went well. This makes kids and parents feel good and helps strengthen the budding friendship.
- Make friends with the parents of your child’s friends.
Talk about the differences in people around you. People have different shapes, sizes, ethnicities, cultures, and abilities. Families have different structures. Point out that the world is a better place because of this diversity!
- Choose books to read to your child that feature people with a broad range of backgrounds and abilities.
- Talk with your child about bias or prejudice when you observe it in person, on TV, or in books.
- Let your child know it’s not okay to tease other kids because they seem different.
- Explain your values clearly so your child has an internal GPS to navigate when challenged by real-life situations.
- Be willing to answer and learn together! The more you discuss diversity, the more your child will ask and want to learn.
In addition to teaching your child loyalty and devotion in friendships, you can also discuss how they should react if they see another child being treated poorly. Bullying usually involves 3 roles that people play: the bully, the bullied, and the bystander.
You should discuss your expectations for each of these roles with your child. Teaching them to stand up for others is crucial to helping them become a good friend and person. Let your child know:
- Think about and act the way they want to be treated.
- Talk with a grown-up if another child is being hurt or if they feel hurt by what someone said or did.
Managing and supporting young friendships is so important! Robert Louis Stevenson wisely wrote: “No man is useless while he has a friend.” Friendship is crucial to our success in life. Help your child find this success by teaching him how to be a good friend!
Resources for parents:
The American Academy of Pediatrics Parenting website: Healthychildren.org
Common Sense Media:
Help Your Kids Find Books with Diverse Characters
The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: From Preschool to High School – How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle, by Barbara Coloroso
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