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Teaching Your Child About Healthy Friendships

Tips For Teaching Your Child About Friendship

As an adult, you know the immeasurable value of quality, healthy friendships… but how did you learn about friendship, including what makes a good friend and how to be a good friend?

You may have learned these things from your own parents, another adult, or even through trial and error. Now, it's up to you to teach your own kids about healthy friendships and relationships. It can be a tricky topic to explain, but this short guide will help you teach your children the friendship skills they need to thrive in life.

Show your children how to be a good friend

Kids learn their very first lessons from observing how their parents interact with the world. So, allowing your children to see and experience the healthy friendships in your own life is incredibly important.

Actively model the sort of friendships you want your children to have. In action, this might include:

  • Speaking kindly to your friends, avoiding gossip and negativity.

  • Treating people with respect.

  • Giving your time to the people you care about — part of friendship is spending time together, after all.

  • Once your children are older, you can even explain how friends resolve differences or conflict. Model good communication skills , including active listening.

In essence, you're simply treating others how you would like to be treated, and your kids will pick up on that throughout their lives.

Additionally, make sure to praise your child when he or she is being a good friend. For example, “When your brother fell down at the park I noticed you sat with him until he felt good enough to play again. That was a very thoughtful thing to do.” It's a simple idea, but it can have a big impact.

Confidence and self-esteem are hugely important parts of friendship

Children who have high self-esteem and confidence naturally develop other useful friendship skills such as kindness and empathy. When your child values themselves, they're far more likely to choose friends who are similarly self-respecting. In turn, those friends are more likely to be a good friend to your child.

Guiding your child toward choosing the “right” kinds of friends

Kindness, empathy, confidence… while you might know that these are invaluable traits in a good friend, your child likely needs some help figuring it all out. To that effect, you can guide your child toward healthy friendships by:

  • Encouraging participation in activities they enjoy, where they're likely to meet likeminded friends.

  • Speaking to their teachers about the friends your young child is making in class (both healthy and unhealthy friendships). Then, you can help your child make plans outside of school.

  • Regularly talking to your child about their friends. Ask them how their friends make them feel, talk them through issues and conflicts, and help them make good decisions about their friendships.

Remember, there will be some ups and downs during the many friendships your child will have throughout his or her life. Fights, disagreements, and even “friend breakups” are all an important part of developing solid friendship skills. In fact, these lessons are a very important part of developing resilience in the face of adversity (perhaps one of life's most important skills).