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Five Ways to Help Your Child Make Friends

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By Lee Scott

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Our heart aches when our children suffer from an unkind word, are not included in a game or struggle to make friends. We all want our children to make friends and enjoy playful activities with others. There are five easy activities that you can do to help your children develop and maintain positive friendships that we use every day at The Goddard School.

Read Together – Children learn so much through the narrative of a great story. Look for books that feature friendships, helping others and sharing. Talking about the characters, their feelings and story outcomes helps to develop an understanding of how to be a friend.  A few favorites of The Goddard School are:

  • How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends? by Jane Yolan, illustrated by Mark Teague;
  • Little Lonely Leigh by Sally Huss;
  • Making Friends Is an Art! by Julia Cook, illustrated by Bridget Barnes.

Play Games – Game-playing is a great way to help your children develop skills such as taking turns, self-regulation and following rules, all of which are essential for being a great friend. Select board games that are easy to follow at the start and add more challenging games. You can do this with online games as well. Choose games that at least two people can share. Once your children learn a game, invite a friend to play and share the games together.

Help Someone – Children learn empathy, caring and perspective by participating in activities to help others. For young ones, start with simple tasks such as creating a get-well card for a sick friend, collecting unused toys for children’s hospitals or making cookies together to give to a neighbor.

Play! – Provide open-ended opportunities for your children to play with others. Try not to go to venues where the children don’t have a lot of time to interact with each other, such as a movie or an amusement park. The entertainment is a distraction from interacting with other children. Instead, choose an outside playground or a park where children can make up their own games and play together.

Encourage and Model – Teachers at The Goddard School use two techniques to help children develop social-emotional skills. One is encouragement and praise. When you see your children exhibiting friendly behaviors such as sharing and taking turns, praise them. This encourages children to repeat the positive behavior. The other technique is modeling. By modeling positive, friendly behaviors, you can guide children to do the same. Be careful what you say within earshot of your children. Young children can pick up on unfriendly behaviors as well.

Learning to build friendships supports children’s development into well-rounded, emotionally healthy human beings. Try not to worry. By using these five activities, your children will be well on their way to developing the skills for many fun, engaging and long-lasting friendships.