How to teach children the value of friendship

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Catherine Le Nevez
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How to teach children the value of friendship

It's hard to put into words what it is, but we've all experienced it from an early age. L'friendship it is mysterious and fascinating, a feeling that is good to train from an early age in our children. Here's how to do it with the advice of the psychologist and psychotherapist Sara Luna .

In this article

  • Why friendship is important
  • What is friendship for children in different age groups
  • How to explain the value of friendship to children
  • Friendship activities and games for children
  • Friendship books

Why friendship is important

«Friendship is very important for the physical and mental health of children - begins the expert - First of all because it trains their social and relational skills, it accustoms them to be among others with the positive and negative aspects that this entails. Helps develop the ability to cope with conflicts and manage disappointments, but being loved and appreciated by others also increases self-esteem. To emerge strengthened is theempathy, that is the ability to get out of one's own individuality trying to take into consideration the needs of others ".

What is friendship for children in different age groups

"Children have a different concept of friendship from that of adults which evolves as they grow up". We start from a condition of self-centeredness, in which they struggle to put themselves in the shoes of others, and slowly understand that the other may have different needs from their own.

  • At the nursery. At the age of kindergarten and up to 3 years of age, children establish unstable relationships, based on closeness and similarity. It is more about playmates with whom, quite frequently, small conflicts occur: «At this age, children learn the first rules of civil coexistence, how to do a little for one, read a book together. It is not a priority for them to love each other or to be loved, they perceive little pleasure in being together and they do so especially if they are regulated by adults. However, it is important that they begin to interact with others, that they begin to "choose themselves" a bit ».

  • At the kindergarten. As children grow up, they recognize their first friends as people they feel good with, who are kind and want to play with them. «They learn that it is more beautiful not to be alone and they start sharing things, even if there is no lack of arguments. However at this age children understand that a friend remains a friend even if at times he makes you angry ».

  • In primary school. In elementary school children understand each other more and more, because they begin to abandon their self-centered vision: «They realize that they love and are loved, the emotional dimension enters and relationships become more lasting. A friend is a person who is esteemed, to be trusted, to console and protect, with whom he helps each other. And the choice of friends does not happen only by affinity, but also by difference since it is understood that one does not necessarily have to be the same in everything ».

Read also: My child has an imaginary friend

How to explain the value of friendship to children

«The fundamental concept to pass - he says - is that a friend is a person who makes us feel good. However, it is above all important to show them what friendship is through your example and direct experiences ».

  • Value your friendships. If parents are interested in socializing outside the family nucleus and surround themselves with friends, children perceive from an early age the beauty of being together with others.

  • Establish healthy relationships in the family. They will be the model on which your children will also base their relationships outside the home: “Set an example by forgiving and apologizing after an argument, behaving honestly, polite and kind, generous, tolerant; keep your promises, give and be trustworthy. Listening to him, you will also indirectly develop his empathy ».

  • Create opportunities for your child to make friends. "Encourage your child to invite a friend over and talk in advance about the things they could do together, how to make the guest feel at ease: please them with the choice of games, try not to get angry, don't leave them alone in a room , offer a snack ... ».

  • Don't interfere in their friendships. Parents must resist the temptation to interfere in the relationships that their child is building: "Even if you like one friendship less than another, let them choose freely and do not comment: it is important that they experience autonomy at this stage and do not perceive of being judged unable to choose friendships ".

  • Leave them autonomous in conflict management. Allow the children to resolve any conflicts between themselves: «Comparison can be useful to strengthen a friendship and it is formative for them to try it alone. Explain to them that friendship is not always easy, but it also requires commitment because people are all different from each other: and this is nice because a friend most of the time stimulates and entertains, but sometimes it can disappoint. And teach them to apologize sincerely and not jokingly or falsely. "

  • Help them distinguish between a friend and a bully. Leaving them to act alone does not mean losing interest in what happens to them: «It is important to provide them with tools to autonomously understand the nature of their relationships, because they are learning day after day. In particular, watch out for possible cases of bullying or bullying: children often do not react because they think that the conflict should not exist between friends, and instead it is part of it but sometimes it can also become irremediable. To understand this, they have to listen to their emotions. Ask them if that episode made them feel uncomfortable. The first thing to suggest is always to forgive, but always being tolerant and minimizing the incorrect gestures of others damages self-esteem ».

Read also: How to teach children about gender equality

Friendship activities and games for children

  • Cooperation games. Encourage them to share and collaborate starting with the brothers, to make them understand that unity is strength: "Have them build a four-handed castle, suggest that they tidy up together because it takes less time to do so, encourage them to cooperate to move something heavy, do a big drawing together or bake a cake by dividing tasks. Team sports are also very educational in this sense ».

  • Empathy games. «Put them in pairs in the mirror, facing each other, to imitate the gestures of others. Or have them create a story together. Or again, play "Who am I?" where everyone has to guess through questions who is the character written on the note placed on the forehead: train to put yourself in someone else's shoes ».

  • Read together. Stories, even those not with a happy ending, are a stimulus for discussion: "Talking about feelings, even those that are difficult to manage, is a perfect way to teach emotions and empathize with the characters."

  • Talk about your family's friendships. Who is mom's best friend? Does dad have any friends? And what did he do with his friends as a child? Were there any funny or unpleasant episodes?

  • The "ingredients" of friendship. Try to list with them what the important things are: «Being available and giving compliments, sharing interests and games and waiting for your turn, being polite and kind, smiling, greeting, listening, looking in the face. And there are also behaviors that distance others: showing oneself introverted, arguing, being bullying or aggressive, bragging, telling lies and cheating at the game, not accepting defeats ».

Read also: "Selfish" children, how to face this stage of growth

Friendship books

From 3 years

  • The Abby of Friendship by Felicity Brooks, illustrations by Mar Ferrero (ed. Usborne, 2022)

  • Little blue and little yellow by Leo Lionni (ed. Babalibri, 1999)

  • Friendship is ... by Mies Van Hout (ed. Lemniscaat, 2022)

  • On the hill by Linda Sarah and Benji Davies (ed. EDT-Giralangolo, 2022)

From 5 years

  • Lucy and the thread of friendship by Vanessa Roeder (published by Terre di Mezzo, 2022)

  • Pandora by Victoria Turnbull (ed. Middle Lands, 2022)

  • The important thing is that we are friends with Jessica Wolton and Dougal MacPherson (ed. Rizzoli, 2022)

From 6 to 10 years

  • Trilogy of friendship by Luis Sepúlveda (ed. Guanda, 2022) which contains the three fables' Story of a seagull and the cat that taught her to fly ',' Story of a cat and mouse who became her friend ',' History of a snail who discovered the importance of slowness'

  • Listen to my heart by Bianca Pitzorno (ed. Mondadori, 1991)

For adults

  • Friendship between children. The birth of intimacy by Judy Dunn (ed. Raffaello Cortina, 2005)

  • Friendship between children by Zick Rubin (ed. Armando, 1998)

  • Arguing to Grow by Daniele Novara (ed. Erickson, 2022)

In this article

Sara Luna she is a psychologist and psychotherapist and author, together with the pedagogist Marta Stella, of the site mammechefatica. On the Facebook page of the site you will find video tutorials with advice for parents.

  • friendship
  • friendship children
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