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Did you know that the key to happiness is so simple and something we can help our children achieve with a tiny bit of guidance? According to a major study from Harvard that tracked people’s lives for 80 years, friendship is what makes us happier throughout our lives. In addition, Mental Health America explains that good friends are critical for helping children develop self-confidence, high self-esteem, and a healthy emotional outlook.
Learning how to make friends from a young age is an extremely important building block in developing and retaining healthy, meaningful relationships. But friendship can sometimes be tricky. Here are some key pointers that parents can pass along to their kids about how to make and keep friends as they grow.
Making Friends Starts Early in Life
From the moment a child is born and first stares wonderingly into another person’s eyes, he or she is starting to develop the ability to recognize familiar faces and to form a bond. The first signs your presence is appealing to your child is when he or she starts giving big wide smiles and showing excitement and delight or even chuckling. Your child is developing empathy with another being; the road to making friends has begun. New friendships early on are important since they are the source of much enjoyment for the child and put the basics in place for later in life.
Most of the time, children at school will have a set group of friends they generally will hang around with, and that doesn’t happen by accident. By the time the kids are of age to go to school, they have all developed a certain character and personality, and it is likely that new friendships will form between like-minded individuals. Helping your children understand what sort of character they are will help them identify those traits in others, which provides them the best chance to see who will make the best friend.
Reinforcing Friendship Skills
As your child develops friendships, it is important that you observe the interactions and be ready to talk about it later. Explain what the child does that is nice and is appreciated, such as sharing with another, or offering comfort when someone is hurt or unhappy. It is quite likely that at least some of the antics that will be displayed or that you will observe will not be so welcomed. When that happens, be sure to explain to your child why those things are not nice and should not be repeated.
Positive Body Language
Without having to go into the deeper aspects of body language, which is very powerful even for kids, there are a few simple tips you can pass along. Encourage them to smile, stand up straight, look people in the eye when they speak, and to not fold their arms. This reminder will help present them as potentially friendly and approachable to others. Children who get left out and think the other kids are mean can sometimes learn something by looking at their demeanor. If they are standing away from the action, arms crossed, looking at their feet with a sour look on their face, they are simply sending out the wrong signals. Instead, they need to turn that frown upside down and reach out to others.
Breaking The Ice
Some kids are naturally exuberant and totally self-confident, but many are more reserved and shy. You might see them looking at another child their own age and you just know they would like to make a friend but do not know how to take the first step. Here is where you can really help, by dusting off your old chat up lines and giving them some advice on how to start a conversation. Staff in early learning child care centers, like Guardian child care in NSW, regularly provide such guidance for new arrivals.
Children naturally want to make friends. When armed with the knowledge of what an adult tells them will work, kids will soon lose their inhibitions and make plenty of new friends. From there, much will depend on what you have taught them about manners and fair play. Those who wait their turn are liked, while those who push their way in are not.
How do you help your children make new friendships?