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    Teaching Friendship

    Teaching Your Child About Friendship

    How long have you known your best friend? A few years? A decade? Or since you both could barely walk? As your own kids make friends, it’s important to teach them what goes into a healthy friendship. Once they know how to be a good friend, they’ll have the blocks to build lifelong friendships.


    Teaching Empathy

    There are lots of things that make a friendship work: caring, dependability, and trustworthiness are just a few. But most of these qualities fall under the banner of empathy. Empathy is the cornerstone of any effective friendship – without it, there can only be selfishness. But young children need help developing their sense of empathy if they’re going to have healthy friendships in the future. Kids learn empathy from parents and siblings, so while your child is at the toddler stage it’s a good idea to talk frequently about feelings. If your child does something that disregards someone else’s feelings, try saying something like, “How do you think it made your brother feel when you pushed him in the sandbox?” The more your child thinks about others’ feelings, the likelier they are to develop a finely honed sense of empathy.

    Give Them Clues

    Another way to help your child develop empathy is to exaggerate your expressions. It may sound strange to behave this way, but young children are always watching for clues on how to react, so if you’re blank-faced when they come to you with a great tragedy – say, a skinned knee – your child won’t know what to think.

    Once your child has developed a sense of empathy, they’re well-prepared for friendship. But to understand the emotions of someone else is not necessarily to befriend them. It takes an attitude of acceptance and generosity to truly be a friend.

    Be Forgiving

    Ever notice how good friends are forgiving? This is a behavior you can teach your child too. It begins at home: if you demand things of your child and criticize their mistakes, your child will be demanding and critical of their peers. Teach your child to accept their own mistakes, and work with them to find solutions for next time, and they’ll learn behavior that will serve them well in future friendships.

    Generosity is Key

    Generosity is something you’ve already taught your kids, because you’ve probably been more generous with them than with anyone else. But it’s wise to explain to kids that sharing doesn’t always refer to snacks and toys; generous friends share their feelings too.

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