Friendship is ElementaryAdvice
Advice from Cheryl Gotthelf
A new school year means new routines, new adventures, and new things to learn! Whether your little one is heading off to kindergarten for the very first time or venturing forward into a new elementary-level grade, her interactions with her peers and the friendships she forms are all a valuable part of her learning.
Here, Cheryl Gotthelf, an entertainment and educational content expert and current consultant on the WellieWishers animated series, explains the role strong, enriching friendships have in your girl’s learning and development and offers important insights and ideas for how you can support and encourage your 5- to 7-year-old as she builds positive relationships with her peers.
Strong friendships enrich a girl's life.
When a child makes a friend, she feels likeable and accepted, which is a wonderful boost to her confidence and self-esteem. Friendships provide a variety of experiences that span a diverse range of personalities, from those children who are defined by their unbridled enthusiasm to ones who could be described as “slow to warm.” Learning how to gauge one’s own behavior in relationship to another’s is an invaluable social skill.
Through friendships girls achieve important developmental steps..
Social and emotional development are taking huge strides at this age. Girls have increasing awareness of their own emotions, can often identify what emotions others are feeling, and are aware that people have different perspectives than their own. Friendships play a central role in building these skills as children practice resolving conflicts in socially appropriate ways, either by talking things over or with help from an adult.
Friendships have a lot to teach girls at this age..
From friendships, kids learn important social skills like taking turns, empathy, and perspective taking. Learning how to be a good friend takes lots of practice! Practice listening, being kind, taking turns, and sharing.
These friendship “rehearsals” involve lots of trial-and-error learning, and when kids experiment with different friendship configurations they are testing the waters of relationships with others. For example, sometimes a child will join a group that is already playing and follow what the other children are doing. Other times, that child may want to be the leader. Inevitably, they’ll experience some forms of conflict. Adults find it hard to stay on the sidelines during these moments, but there’s a lot for kids to learn as they encounter such situations. The ability to work out problems on one’s own is an invaluable life skill, so try to resist the urge to swoop in and solve a mild argument.
Encourage your girl to build strong friendships..
You can help your child develop the type of attributes other children seek in a friend by modeling and encouraging certain types of behaviors at home:
- Practice taking turns as a building block to learning how to share
- Nurture the ability to apologize and to forgive
- Help develop a respect for personal and physical boundaries
- Foster kindness and empathy, qualities that other kids seek out in a friend
- Support clear ideas about actions and gestures that convey caring
- Promote flexibility and the ability to compromise
Most of all, be mindful of your own child’s self-esteem and confidence. The ability to form strong friendships is based on your child’s happiness with who she is.