Helping Children Form Friendships

By Lucia Ernewein, Early Childhood Educator

It is exciting to watch a young child progress from parallel play to cooperative play.  In the words of Fred Rogers, “One of life’s greatest joys is the comfortable give and take of a good friendship. It’s a wonderful feeling not only to have a friend, but to know how to be a friend yourself.”

But this transition is not always easy for a young child. Children are inevitably at different stages of development with regard to their ability to be empathetic or to understand and respect the opinions of others. It takes practice and our guidance to help our children hone these skills.

We practice friendship skills in our classroom every day as we establish connections with one another and build our strong school family bond. Using the same simple strategies at home will continue providing the practice your child needs. Noticing is one the most powerful ways we can help our children. Catch your children in the act of being a good friend and let them know that they are being a good friend.

Some things we can notice:

  • Sharing with a friend
  • Taking turns with a friend
  • Giving a friend a hug when he/she is feeling sad
  • Helping a friend clean up after a play session
  • Listening to a friend
  • Inviting a child to come and play who seems to be alone
  • Teaching a friend a new skill

And in the words of the poet John Dunne, “No man is an island.” Remember that this is a time that young children are beginning to see themselves as part of a more complex social world, and we need to be there to help them learn to nurture and build friendships and to find their place in our world.

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