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Childhood friendships are often one of those things we take for granted. We just assume that they are going to happen, and in many cases friendships in the early years do come pretty naturally. Early childhood friendships can be very beneficial for healthy developmental and overall wellbeing.

Furthermore, research has suggested that preschool friendships can:

  • Help in the development of social and emotional skills
  • Increase a sense of group belonging (and therefore interpersonal skills)
  • Decrease stress
  • Be correlated with higher social competence
  • Be correlated with altruistic behaviour (being kind and helping others for its own sake)
  • Help in developing identity (and therefore intrapersonal skills)
  • Increase active play and overall physical health
  • Increase sympathy/empathy

However, some children need a little more support than others in friendship making endeavors. So, here are a few suggestions for supporting healthy friendship building in the early years:

1. Keep Children with Growing Friendships in the Same Class

As an educator, daycare director, or school principal, one strategy for encouraging positive friendships is to keep children who have already developed bonds in the same classes when possible.

2. Model Staying Connected

As a parent, modelling healthy friendships and staying connected with peers is another way in which children can learn how to build friendships

3. Be Encouraging of Your Child’s Friendships

If there is a friendship that makes your child happy, support it. Children are unable to schedule their own playdates, and they aren’t in charge of their calendar. Be sure to help them schedule time with friends that are important to them.

4. Understand Your Child’s Interpersonal Needs

Children have personalities the same way as adults do. For some children, a few close friends are enough, and for others a larger friend group is preferable. Pay attention to what makes your child the happiest and support their interpersonal style, whatever it may be.

5. Help Your Child Develop Social Emotional Skills

Development of social emotional skills happens in the classroom and at home. Help children learn how to express what they are feeling, how to understand how others are feeling, and how to interact respectfully and kindly with others.

6. Help Your Child Find Friends with Similar Interests

Enroll your child in the extracurriculars that they like, such as soccer, dance, etc. Hopefully in these clubs or through sports they will be able to find friends who like the same things they do. Be careful not to overwhelm them with activities though! Try to choose only the ones that your child likes most, let them be the ones driving their own interests so that their schedule is not too chaotic and stressful.



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