Did you know it’s Best Friends Week? It’s a time to celebrate the friends in your life, and encourage your girl to think about what it means to be a good friend. We’ve invited Cheryl Gotthelf, an entertainment and educational content expert and current consultant on the WellieWishers animated series, to share her thoughts on how you can help your girl develop into a kind, empathetic, and compassionate friend.
Besties are the best! But for children to enjoy the benefits of friendship, they need your help developing and practicing some important kindness skills, like empathy and perspective taking. These don’t develop overnight. They take conscious effort on your part along with time, patience, consistent reinforcement, and that secret sauce—love.
When you think about it, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is actually pretty complicated. It requires the ability to understand and identify one’s own feelings, control those feelings, and be flexible enough to see a situation in different ways. That’s a tall order when you are small. But the development of these abilities has a significant effect on how your child will make friends and be able to deal with conflict.
Here are a few specific ways to help foster the development of kindness skills that will enhance your child’s friendships.
Identify and label emotions. Try to use experience to identify and give names to emotions, both the positive and the negative (e.g., “It was kind of you to hug Sienna when she was crying” or “You looked angry when Bree took your stuffed animal.”)
Ask questions around concrete examples when they happen. Kids live very much in the here and now, so it is best to build on what is happening in the moment. (e.g.,“How did it make you feel when Maya took your cookies?” or “When you look at Emma’s face, how do you think she feels about her broken lunch box?”)
Use visuals whenever possible. Something as simple as pictures of faces reflecting different feelings is a useful tool to help teach the words that go with feelings.
Make the most of pretend play. Whether it is with a baby doll or a plush puppy, children’s pretend play is a rich resource for learning. It can be as simple as letting your daughter know that the way she is caring for the baby doll is very gentle and kind.
Know when to stay out of the way. Letting children resolve conflicts on their own is important. It helps them build confidence.
Read books about friendship and kindness. There are many excellent choices, including: Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud; A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip Sted, and s: Willems’ Elephant and Piggy books (Can I Play Too? and My New Friend Is So Fun).
You are your daughter’s most important teacher, so how you treat other people—including your own friends and your child’s friends—is key. There is no stronger influence in your daughter’s life than your positive example.
Check out how the WellieWishers, Ashlyn, Camille, Willa, Kendall, and Emerson, are all learning how to help friendships bloom in all-new episodes now streaming on Amazon Prime!