How many times have we played down a fight which our child has had with one of their friends – wondering why they are making such a fuss about it?
“Just find someone else to play with,” we urge them, shrugging it off.
Developing friendships in early childhood is, of course, an important part in our social development.
But research shows that, as well as teaching youngsters to interact with their peers, friendships have an incredible impact on mental and physical health.
It’s about so much more than learning to share with others. Friendships in early childhood give us a sense of belonging and decrease stress. After all, feeling lonely or socially isolated can lead to depression, health issues and a shorter lifespan.
At Barracudas Summer camps, while we encourage social skills, child development is an important part of bringing youngsters together to form friendships, and we do our very best to give them a healthy and happy experience.
Helping children make friends is an investment in their future wellbeing.
Despite stereotypes, forming friendships in early childhood is as important to boys as it is to girls. It’s human nature to form attachments and to want closeness and support from others, regardless of gender. Which is why we encourage close friendships at Barracudas camps, as part of confidence building for children. While making new friends is great for developing self-esteem, there’s a lot to be said for nurturing current relationships too.
Teaching social skills like these will stand your son or daughter in good stead in their future life. Long-lasting friendships, which endure through childhood and into early adulthood, are effective ways of teaching empathy, as they go through changes and challenges together.
There is no one-size-fits-all formula for friendship. We all thrive socially in different ways. There are, however, ways to help children develop relationship skills that will cultivate deep, meaningful connections with others. And it’s important to note that the benefits of friendship are based on quality, not quantity.
Here are some tips for parents on helping their kids develop positive, warm friendships.
Set an example to stay connected
The ability to nurture friendships are often shaped by watching a parent’s dedication to their friendships. So make time to stay in touch with your own pals.
Coach good friendship skills
Identify one friendship skill your child lacks - then help them develop it. Trouble expressing feelings, for example, can be discussed in a constructive way, either by sharing your own (“It makes me happy when you tell me you love me”), or by helping them to label feelings (“Did it make you feel sad when your friend didn’t want to play with you?”).
Encourage important friendships
If there is a relationship that brings your child joy, then support it. If the kids attend different schools, make time for them to see each other outside of the classroom. Children are often at the mercy of their parents’ busy schedules. Don’t let a friendship die because you’re too busy to drive them to visit their pal.
Respect your child’s personality
Some kids have a lot of friends, while others feel happy with a few. Celebrate and support your child’s personality and needs. One youngster may be more outgoing than a sibling - and it’s important not to compare them.