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photo: Sharra Dade

photo: Sharra Dade

Pals. Chums. Besties. Buddies. BFFs.

Good friends can be one of the joys of childhood. But making friends is a skill that doesn’t always come easily at first.

Support and guide children through the process with these ideas.

Preschoolers
These early years are a great chance for you to observe how your child relates to others — and to teach your youngster how to be a good friend too. You can:
Attend a play group so your child has a chance to socialize.
Arrange playdates with neighbors and friends who have children of similar ages.
Make a game out of role-playing. Encourage kids to practice skills such as sharing, introducing themselves or inviting others to join a game.
Read books about making friends and getting along with others.
Praise them for positive behaviors with other children.
School-age kids
In these age groups, friendships can help kids develop their social skills. They can learn empathy — and how to listen and work through problems. You can:
Help children get involved in ways that will help them meet kids with similar interests. A few places to start: school activities and local hobby clubs, dance or art classes and sports teams.
Talk with your children about what makes a good friend. For example, urge them to stay positive and be good listeners and to not join in when other kids are teasing another child.
If you see your child being a good friend, pay a nice compliment when it’s just the two of you. For example, “That was really nice of you to help Jack find his backpack.”
Encourage kids to be themselves — and to let new friends get to know the real them.
Remind them that all friendships have ups and downs — and not everyone will want to be friends. Emphasize quality relationships over quantity.
Teens
Friends can be an increasingly important influence during the teen years. But parents still have a big role to play. You can:
Talk with your kids — often. Stay involved. Express your affection. Teens are more likely to have good friendships if they have a close relationship with a parent.
Let them know you notice the traits that make them a good friend to others. For example, “Laura is lucky to have a friend who takes the time to listen when she’s upset.”
Encourage teens to use their judgment choosing friends too. Remind them they can be friendly without being friends with kids who aren’t a good match.
Stay aware of your kids’ activity on social media. Keep the lines of communication open. Make sure they understand what being a good friend means both in person and online: avoiding hurtful comments, respecting people’s privacy, reporting bullying, etc.
Encourage them to have face-to-face time with friends, not just texts and digital interactions.
Be a good role model. It’s important for children to see their parents take the time to nurture kind, respectful friendships.
Give them room to grow
If your child is shy, gently guide him or her into low-pressure social situations. And respect kids’ need for quiet time and solo activities too.

Your kids might be more or less social than their siblings or than you were at their age — and that’s OK. As a parent, you can help kids grow in confidence by staying positive and supportive.

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