A new season of learning is here! Teachers are assigned, school supplies are stocked, and children are proudly wearing their new back to school outfits. As the school year gets underway, you’re probably thinking about the new people your child will meet in the classroom. It may seem like there’s little you can do to help your child make new friends, but you play an important role too!
From an early age, children begin learning how to play and interact with one another by watching the people around them. Whether your child is 2 or 8, there are different things that you can do to help them develop healthy relationships.
For infants, toddlers, and young preschoolers:
- Spend time playing together and practice taking turns. For example, kick a ball back and forth while saying, “my turn, your turn.”
- Model sharing during play. Give your child some blocks and say something like, “some for you and some for me.” After a while, try asking your child to share some of their blocks.
- Teach empathy by having your child take care of their toys, stuffed animals, or dolls. Giving your child practice in caring for others can help them to nurture relationships.
For preschool, kindergarten, and school-age children:
- Teach your child specific words to use to safely express themselves. When you strengthen their communication skills, you give them the ability to share emotions and self-regulate.
- Role-play with your child. This is a great way to teach them how to play, resolve conflict, and even how to make friends. It gives you the opportunity to explore some scenarios your child may struggle with too.
- Model positive interactions for your child. Whether you’re talking to a neighbor or someone at the store, your child is watching. These opportunities allow them to learn how to communicate, negotiate, and problem-solve.
By giving your child the right tools and support, you can help them understand what healthy relationships look and feel like. Making new friends and learning how to be a good friend are two important life skills for children to learn. It just takes time and practice!