Teaching Your Child Healthy Friendship Skills

Written by Guest Blogger: Lisa Montierth

Summer is just over the horizon!

It’s coming at us fast, and it’s bringing all sorts of wonderful things with it: long hours spent under the sun, barbecues, family vacations, and, of course, a break from all the routines of the school year. With all that free time sprawling ahead of you, you’re probably thinking about how to keep your kids happy and adequately occupied for three months.

Summer blows your child’s regular schedule wide open, paving the way for much more self-directed activity – time that is often spent with their friends. With so much more time for play dates and activities, this is the perfect time to talk to your kids about friendship skills.

Friendship is important at any age, and it can be especially critical for kids. Kids are still learning about social skills, and relationships will always have their ups and downs. The best thing to do is to stay calm and gently offer guidance when your kids need you. Here are some ways you can help your child be a better friend:

Encourage team building. Activities where kids can work together toward a common goal are great for developing friendships. Things like building forts, playing games with teams, and making an obstacle course encourage negotiation, communication, and problem solving.

Give positive feedback. If you see your children doing something pro-social, like sharing a treat or helping in a game, let them know how that action shows their friends that they care. Making note of these kind and thoughtful actions will help your child understand what sort of behavior makes a good friend.

Put the ball in their court. If your children come to you about a problem with a friend, take the opportunity to work through the situation with them instead of just trying to fix it. Ask them what happened, how they felt about it, and what they could try next. Ask how they tried to make the situation better, compliment them for trying, and let them know you support them. Don’t dwell on the situation. Just address it and then move on.

Role-play social skills. Have conversations with your child about how to handle important social interactions, like:
– Being a good listener
– Having a group discussion
– Following rules
– Asking questions
– Having a conversation
– Apologizing
– Being a good sport

Get to know the parents of your child’s friends. Especially if your kids are shy around new people, modeling friendship with the parents of your child’s friends is key. Connecting with other parents is also a great way to build community, and stay updated about what’s happening in other areas of your child’s life.

Friendships are important for kids, and learning how to be a good friend is a skill that will serve them through their lives. With a little guidance and support from you, your child can be a better friend – and your whole family will have a great summer!

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