Children’s Friendships by Nancy Nathanson
“If children live with acceptance and friendship,
they learn to find love in the world.”
Early childhood educators know the value of friendships in children’s lives. As caregivers, we often model for children how to appropriately interact with their peers. They also learn social behaviors by observing how significant adults in their lives interact with others.
Today more than ever, children are beginning to experience social situations at an earlier age. Recent studies have shown that some friendships formed in the early years of childhood are second only to family relationships in importance. From such findings comes a heightened awareness of the social-emotional importance of friendships in the early years.
The child care setting offers children a variety of social experiences that might not be available to them in sibling or family relationships. With many friends his or her own age, a child encounters a myriad of opportunities to negotiate and compromise. On a daily basis they are encouraged to express opinions and ideas, as well as respect others. Preschoolers develop social competence in initiating interactions, maintaining ongoing relationships, and solving conflicts with other children. Valuable and challenging tasks for sure! These interactions have long-term effects on a child’s life.
We know children frequently change “best friends” by the hour and all children are not “social butterflies”. A key element in fostering this social development is being insightful about what type of social settings your child is most comfortable in. Fostering the social strategies necessary to enter a play group, express their needs, and solve a conflict can give your child a good, healthy foundation for long-lasting relationships with peers.