At age six, as kids develop stronger and more stable friendships, social conflict among friends is inevitable.
In fact, kids are more likely to have conflict with close friends than with acquaintances because they spend more time with friends and have to negotiate different opinions, temperaments, and styles of play. The good news is kids this age are highly motivated to solve these social problems because they care about the relationships. As parents, we can help children learn how to collaborate, cooperate, communicate, negotiate, self-advocate and respect others.
Encourage Problem Solving
When you are helping your child think through a conflict with a peer or family member, empower them to come up with solutions. First, have them describe the problem — identifying the source of conflict is an important step. Then ask open-ended questions such as "What could we do to make the situation better?"; "What would be a fair solution?"; "What's one thing you could do to help your friend feel better?" Enlist their imagination: "If you could wave a magic wand and fix this problem, what would it look like?" If children can imagine an outcome, they can begin to take steps to reach that goal.
Talk About Examples
According to research, children learn more from media when their parents talk with them about what they are watching or creating. Many PBS Kids programs feature characters who are learning how to share, take turns, forgive and work through conflicts with peers. Watch one of these episodes together and talk about the choices the characters are making, how they feel and how they resolve social problems.
"Tell a Grown-Up"
From an early age, remind children that there are times they can solve problems on their own, but there are also times when it's very important to get help from a parent, teacher or trusted adult. If they feel unsafe, if someone is hurting them physically or emotionally, if they see someone else being hurt or if they have tried to solve a situation independently but it didn't work, they should "tell an adult."
Talk About How to Disagree Respectfully
When your child doesn't see eye-to-eye with a peer, remind them that sometimes friends don't agree on certain things — and that's okay. People who like each other a lot can have different opinions, likes or interests. But even when we disagree, we should always treat other people with respect and dignity. That means we DON'T call people names, ignore them, yell at them or hit them. That means we DO look for solutions that respect both parties, apologize when our actions hurt someone else and treat people with kindness.