If you were on Facebook yesterday you may have noticed that they celebrated their anniversary by making February 4 Friends Day. It made me think about the importance of friendship – not just as grown ups, but children too. So, why do we NEED friends?
- Babies and toddlers don’t necessarily play with their friends. They do, however, respond to other people – their parents, care takers, other babies and toddlers. Young toddlers learn from one another through imitation and parallel play.
- Around 18 months old, a toddler seems like she’s all about herself, but she’s also becoming aware of her surroundings. She may hug her friend when he is crying or swat him away when he’s bugging her.
- Then at three and four children become what grown ups consider friends. They play together – even though sharing may be a little tough sometimes.
- Preschoolers are starting to understand cooperation. They can understand other kids’ feelings and acknowledge their ideas.
- When kids start kindergarten at five and six, they are still learning how to choose friends, how to create alliances and deal with challenges.
- Five- and six-year-old children can make friends easily but they may change as the child learns about himself.
- Older children – between seven and nine – really cement their understanding of reciprocity and empathy.
- Then as children approach preadolescence (nine to 12), friendships are much more important. The value of trust becomes an important part of their relationship. Rifts in a friendship aren’t easily mended, but need both parties to discuss the incident.
How can you help your child make friends?
Here are some ideas from Dr. Vincent Iannelli, a pediatrics expert:
- youth sports or classes
- noncompetitive activities (ie music, art, chess club)
- story time
- park or playground