How to Teach Children to Be Friends with Others: 6 Steps
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Friendships don't always come naturally.

If play times always bring cries of "that's mine" and "he hit me," don't despair. Your preschooler is not a social disaster. Forming relationships with peers does not always come naturally at this age, and teaching a few simple rules and skills can help him on his way to some happy friendships.


  1. 1
    Providing many opportunities for your child to play is key to developing his ability to make friends, according to Denise Salin, a licensed marriage and family therapist who was quoted at Invite a child to your home. Talk to your child about it beforehand and encourage him to think about what his new friend would like to do. Get him to set up some toys ready to share. There might still be some snatching and arguing, but you are starting to teach him how to think of others.
  2. 2
    Demonstrate how playing with the same toy together can be more fun than hitting each other with it or using it for a tug of war. Examples include pushing a toy vehicle back and forth, playing a card game or setting up a pretend tea shop with one taking orders and the other serving. Think of activities where they need to help each other, such as pushing each other on a swing or pulling each other along on a sit-on toy.
  3. 3
    Teach your child how to recognize her friend's feelings -- explain how it will hurt if a toy crashes into her head. If your child snatches a toy, try explaining: "You have made her feel sad, she was enjoying playing with that." Back this up with lots of positive praise about kindness if your child gives the toy back. The NYU Child Study Center stresses how preschoolers will puff up with pride if they can help others, so encourage her to help you serve refreshments to her friend.
  4. 4
    Use one-on-one time with your child to explore how to make friends and how to be a good friend.
  5. 5
    Put your acting skills to the test and take on the voices of miniature characters or teddies to act out social settings. One character could introduce itself to the others and ask whether she could join in a game or be friends. Encourage your child to do the same. Talk about how the character would feel if the others ignored him or told him to go away.
  6. 6
    Share a picture book that involves different characters and talk about whether the characters are friends, what they might like about each other and how they make each other feel. Identify when the characters have been kind to each other in the story and when they have been unkind. Talk about which characters your child likes and why they like them; are they like anyone they know? This encourages them to think about their own feelings toward other people and why they might choose to be friends with someone. It is OK to admit we don't like or get on with everyone we meet.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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