How to Talk to Your Kids About…Friendship

Although some children naturally handle friendship better than others, all kids need to be taught, and practice friendship skills. Kids grow into these skills and need help from parents and other adults to learn the rules of friendship.

How can we help our children learn these key skills?

Talk to your child about what makes a good friend. Kids don’t always know what it means to be a good friend. Make a friendship list with all the qualities of a good friend. Have them tell you what they think makes a good friend. Keep the list close and talk to your child about trying to be that kind of friend. Some possibilities to consider for your list:

Good friends have much in common. They are…

  • Helpful to others
  • Positive and Kind
  • Have the ability to share
  • Can keep confidences
  • Listen to others’ thoughts and ideas
  • Accept mistakes
  • Are good winners and losers
  • Can hold a conversation
  • Give and receive compliments

Role Play, Role Play, Role Play

Talk through scenarios like:

  • What do you do if you want to play with a group of friends who are already playing together? You observe first and then join in without interrupting or being pushy.
  • What if you ask a friend to play and they say “no”.
  • How would you feel if someone was mean to you?

This prepares your child for situations they are certain to face and teaches them empathy for others.

Talk about “Best Friends”

When we push our children to tell us about their “best friend”, we are subconsciously teaching them to exclude. We are teaching them there is a criteria for friendship. Talk about the need to be friends and accept everyone.

Model Friendship

Our children watch everything we do. Are we modeling good friendships skills?

We can model friendship skills when we play with our children. It is an opportunity to talk to them, and show them how to act. When they beat us at Candy Land, show them how to be a good loser. When we win, model how to be a good winner.

Talk about what to do when they are rejected by a friend.

  1. It is okay to move on. Encourage your child to put effort into friendships with children who reciprocate, and move on.
  2. Don’t say “I told you say.” Avoid talking about all the things your child did wrong. When a friendship goes south, we need to show extra love to our children. The rejection has already made them feel vulnerable; they don’t need us to add salt to the wounds.

Have a conversation about friendship with your child today.

About the Author

Heather Ann Johnson is a homemaker, wife and mother. She and her husband have 4 children. She is an Adjunct Faculty member at Brigham Young University where she teaches students the principles behind successful families. Her site, Family Volley, answers reader’s questions about families, marital relationships, and raising children. Heather is a former member of the PedSafe Expert team


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