Good friends provide us with support from childhood through adulthood. It takes practice to learn how to be a good friend – practice at being kind, supportive, trustworthy, and a good listener.
Eight-year-olds care a lot about friendship and belonging. They’ve moved past the simple “playmate” stage of friendship and may begin to confide their thoughts and feelings to a “best friend” or small group of close friends. At this age, they are very sensitive to social rejection and may become jealous when their friends play with other people.
Talk About Friendship Skills
Help children draw the connection between their kind, cooperative behavior and friendship. This might sound like, "I noticed that you sat by your friend when she was feeling upset. You are a good friend." As the Daniel Tiger song reminds us, "Friends help each other. Yes they do, it's true."
Playdates are not only fun, they are a great opportunity for young children to practice friendship skills, as they learn how to share toys, take turns, cooperate and work through problems that inevitably arise. Help them expand their circle by scheduling playdates with kids outside of their familiar peer group. While kids need some supervision, make sure you also give them room to figure out how to play independently, using their own imagination.
Be Sensitive to Temperament
A child’s basic temperament is hard-wired. Some children are more cautious than others, eager to observe before diving in. Some children are more naturally comfortable with big groups and new social settings. If your child is on the introverted side of the scale, they might need support in learning how to interject themselves into a group at the park, and they may prefer smaller playdates to big group activities. If your child is on the extroverted side of the scale, they may need reminders about reaching out and listening to the ideas of children who are less bold about speaking up. And all children need alone time sometimes to wind down and enjoy their own thoughts.
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