As a parent, you know the necessity of forming a strong bond with your child. But did you know that strong relationships with other family and friends can be just as important? Here are some reasons why family and friends are so important for your child, and how you can help foster those relationships.
Greater empathy and understanding of others
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a toddler who plays with friends can demonstrate “less aggressive behavior and calmer play sessions.” This is because playing with their friends allows preschoolers to understand that people are unique, and each have different wants and needs. With this growing awareness of the feelings and actions of others, they will begin to see that cooperation is often more ideal than competition. Empathy is a very important skill to develop, and playing with friends is an ideal, low-stakes environment for this to take place.
Improved conflict resolution skills
Strong friendships can help your child build good conflict resolution skills. With both acquaintances and close friends, conflict is bound to arise from time to time. However, according to psychologist Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D. “What a friend says and does really matters. And because you are friends, you are motivated to work it through.” With familial relationships, this concept can be even stronger.
When your child was an infant, you were their closest friend. However, as your child grows, it is important to practice independence. Strong relationships with others, both inside and outside of the family, can help your child understand their own unique personality and where they fit in with their world. Good relationships will also increase your child’s self-esteem, which will increase their independence even more.
Sense of belonging, support, and enhanced well-being
We all have at least one friend who is always ready to listen, or who has consistently been supportive. For children, this is equally as important. According to a study by the British Journal of Psychology, having at least one close friend has helped children overcome challenging situations.
This type of positive influence isn’t limited to overcoming adversity. Other studies have shown that friends can influence children to be more physically active, and have better attitudes towards school. Also, thanks to the security and sense of belonging that these relationships bring, close family and friends can be an excellent source of stress reduction for your child.
How to encourage strong relationships for your child
As a parent, you can do several things to foster strong and healthy relationships for your child. Here are some examples:
- Set up play dates with your child’s closest preschool friend.
- Read books about friendship with your child.
- Offer to host a sleepover for your child and a few of their friends.
- Make regular visits to family members, and invite them to do the same.
- Encourage your older child to sign up for extracurricular activities that interest them.
As always, the behavior you model will have a strong influence on your child. Let your child see you nurturing your own relationships, and they will be able to learn from your example.