Early childhood is an incredible time for firsts in life and indelible memories. As my preschooler delights in her first friendships, she reminds me of the pure joy of friendships and how to be a good friend. Her whole face lights up when talks about her friend and she spends many moments before school thinking of ways in which she can show her how much she thinks of her. Oh the drawings and other creations that have been made for this little girl! For as the great writers Ana Nin said, “Each friend represents a world in us,
a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born,” and Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us, ”The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
For preschool children and I do believe children of all ages, one of the best ways to teach your children about friendship is by mirroring the qualities you find in a friendship. Parents can: be a good listener; show interest in what in their child is talking about; teach them empathy by trying to understand their point of view, even when you may wholeheartedly disagree with what they are saying; plan activities that involve things that especially interest them; and show them how to win and lose gracefully when you are playing a game together. Also let them see you being a good friend to your good friends and enjoying their company. Friendships renew everyone’s spirits.
From initiating friendships to activities for friends to do together once the friendship has been cemented, the website shykids.com has many good suggestions about friendship. For some children, just as adults, this comes more naturally. Yet it is a crucial and normal part of growing up. We know, without the studies telling us, that people with friendships are healthier, happier, and more secure in life. As the writer Isabel Norton tells us: “In a friend we find our second self.” Lastly, as Richard Bach says, ”Every gift from a friend is a wish for your happiness.”