Did you know that the first Sunday in August is International Friendship Day? Forming friendships is an invaluable part of a child’s development and can play a vital role in their evolving self-esteem and personal identity from their earliest years into adulthood. Friendships not only help them learn valuable social skills, but it also lays the foundation for trust, environmental awareness, empathy, and being willing to explore beyond the safety of the family unit.
Some children have no difficulty in establishing new friendships wherever they go, while others struggle to make such positive connections. Sometimes this is simply because of a lack of experience, while shyness can also pose a personal obstacle to bridging the gap between them and other children.
Considering how important friendships are for your child’s healthy growth, how can you encourage these relationships in a nurturing way?
- Model behavior – In many areas, a parent is the children’s first and most important role model as they learn to navigate new experiences and test out new life skills. If you demonstrate healthy friendships in your own life, interacting with your peers in a positive way, that sort of interaction will establish a model for your child to mimic.
- Get involved – Getting your child involved in activities that will connect them with others their age is a great way to give them the chance to make friends. Activities such as sports or art, community centers where other families gather, and special events or programs that cater to your kid’s common interests are all great ways for them to get involved and meet others in a fun and engaging context.
- Play games – Your child is still learning how to form friendships. It’s a skill that takes practice to get good at. If they’re ever confused or doubtful of their ability to make friends, it can help to sit down with them and talk through any questions or concerns they may have, even role playing certain scenarios so they are prepared when the situation actually comes up in the future.
- Don’t force it – It can be tempting to try to push a child to establish friendships faster than they’re comfortable. After all, once they have a friend or two, it’s easier to not worry about whether they’re socially adept. But trying to force the matter can often cause them to withdraw even more!
Watching your children form wonderful and lasting friendships is a joyful experience, to be sure; but you don’t have to play a passive role in the process. Being alongside them and cheering and coaching them on in a new friendship is a role every parent can cherish!