Teaching the art of friendship to children

By Joni Downey on 14th Apr 2020

Make new friends, but, keep the old, one is silver and the other gold. I learned this song while a young girl in scouts. We sang it all the time, and fifty years later it still resonates! Girl Scouts is one of the safe places that I found lasting friendships.
How is it that your children make friends? Usually, at school, sports or other team activities are where our youth make friends and build friendships, some may last a lifetime, and others for a chapter in life. None the less, friends are important to have.

It’s important to talk to your children about the characteristics that make a good friend. It’s natural that we want the best for our children and helping them to make good choices. This is true when making friends. When our children were younger, I made it a point to emphasize that if they were with a friend who was making the wrong choices, they would probably be in the same situation and be in trouble. Try to talk with your children and let them know what a good friend does, what a good friend talks about and makes you feel.

Tips on teaching friendship from Friendship Frog and Characters of Character:

  • Always be a role model for your children
  • Focus on the positive characteristics that make a good friend
  • Allow them to feel the consequences of making poor choices in a friendship
  • Share with them the expectations of a good friend:
    • That friends are honest with one another
    • That friends help each other
    • That friends cheer you up when you’re sad
    • That friends are someone you can count on
    • That friends include others in conversations
    • That friends are always there for each other

It’s just as important to show your children what it is you expect from them, for example, role play, be a bad friend and let them learn how it feels to be treated unkind or with no respect. Allow them to feel the hurt for two reasons, first, they won’t want to feel that way again and hopefully make good choices in who they choose as their friends, and second, they won’t want to make somebody else feel that way. While I was teaching, I did this often with two children who were not behaving appropriately, or bullying, or being disrespectful to one another. Even the youngest of children would understand this lesson.

Let your children see you with your friends, see you talk with them, laugh with them and openly discuss issues. Let your children see you making your friends happy when you’re celebrating a happy occasion or helping with another issue in life. We know that not every day is full of joy and that many times we need to listen to our friends and find a way to lift their spirits. This is what friends do.

Related article: Can you teach your child perseverance?

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