For children, life at daycare, preschool, or kindergarten, is strongly influenced by friends so helping children make friends is highly beneficial. Like so many other qualities we think are part of personality, or that kids will do naturally, making friends is a number of different skills that kids can develop.
What makes popular kids popular? Children who are favorite playmates are usually helpful and have good verbal skills. In terms of emotions, they have the skills of self-regulation and empathy. That is they can handle their own emotions constructively rather than destructively and can see situations from another person’s perspective.
Did you know that imagination plays a part in empathy? When we ask children what someone else might be feeling, they need to be able to imagine what is happening for the other person. They have to go outside themselves and inside the other, to see, hear, and feel it from that viewpoint.
Almost any children’s book can be a useful tool in helping kids stretch their imaginations. For example, Clifford, The Big Red Dog, is drawn as big as a house. After reading some Clifford stories, you and your child can go outside and imagine how big he would be. Where would you see his ears? Would his paw be bigger or smaller than a car?
Besides reading stories, we can help children make friends, by talking about feelings. Kids need the words to attach to emotions. Faces can tell us how someone is feeling by expressions. Ask your child to make a happy, sad, angry, scared, and surprised face. Let your child choose an emotion and you can make that face. Being able to share and take turns are other skills that get easier with practice too.
Children learn a tremendous amount by watching the adults in their lives. We can model some friend-skills ourselves. Helping children make friends will help make their time so much more enjoyable today. Is this easy or hard for your child? What are some ways you can support the skills to make friends?
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