By Wes Fessler
It is not always easy to visualize the aspects that define childhood friendships, but these precious relationships play an important role in the development of youthful self-esteem and happiness.
Families at home have the opportunity to share values and to instill a sense of what is good in the world for one another. The building blocks of a child's character are created in the home, and put into practice through interactions with friends.
While it is essential to share positive values and to teach children right from wrong, it is also important to allow children to share these good qualities in friendships that allow them to interact and expand their experiences. Building childhood friendships is a way for children to reinforce what they learn in their families, and to develop a sense of confidence in their own abilities.
Working Through Conflict
Young friendships are rarely as perfect as a parent may wish they could be, but this is a time of learning--a time to make a few mistakes or to have a few disagreements. This is a chance for children to experience conflict, and to overcome differences in their interactions. It is not always best to intervene immediately in such situations, but to give children a chance to work out small issues together, to grow stronger in overcoming the challenges of young friendships.
Talk About Friendships
Communication is a key point of guiding a child to successful friendships. Asking children how they feel about their friends can help parents to discover concerns and any unpleasant feelings about their friendships. This can reveal areas that can be improved in a friendship, while offering opportunities to discuss how situations can be remedied in a positive manner. The point as a parent is to be involved with the process of childhood friendship, but to allow the child to take the actions that make friendships a mutually joyful experience.
Holding On and Letting Go
It is common for children to be two peas in a pod at one moment, and sprouting out on their own the next. It can be frustrating for a child who grows attached to a friend who suddenly develops a greater interest in spending time with another friend. The interests of children change drastically from time to time, and sometimes this means that friends will spend less time together or go their separate ways. Parents should help children to understand that this is normal, and while it is important to be loyal as a friend, they should be encouraged to interact with others, and to make new friends when necessary. Letting go is never easy, but learning to adapt and to be a friend to others can bring a positive outcome to such an experience.
Whether children prefer one-on-one interaction, or playing with a group of friends, it is important to encourage them to discover how to find satisfaction with others. Many of a child's happiest moments can be found with friends in the sharing of imagination and personality. The friendships formed in childhood serve as the backbone of a lifetime of experiences with others. Parents are the coaches who stand in support as their children run, jump, fall, and score in the process of discovering what it is to both have and share childhood friendship.
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