Building Strong Friendships with Young Children: A Parent’s Guide


Mia Tremblay

Building strong friendships is a critical aspect of child development. Friends can help children learn more about themselves and grow emotionally. How do we, as parents, help our children cultivate these important relationships? Let’s explore.

Understanding the Importance of Friendship in Early Childhood

Friendships in early childhood play a key role in shaping a child’s personality and behavior. They teach empathy, cooperation, and how to manage emotions. Through friendships, children learn to share, communicate, and resolve conflicts, which are essential life skills.

Laying the Groundwork for Friendship

Establishing Trust and Empathy

Establishing trust and empathy is fundamental to a child’s social development. As parents, our actions and reactions mold their understanding of these concepts. Ever wondered why sharing your ice cream with them makes them happy? It’s not just about the treat; it’s about the message of care and sharing you convey.

Encouraging Positive Interactions

Creating a nurturing environment that encourages positive interactions is crucial. Through playdates, family gatherings, and school interactions, children can practice social skills and form meaningful bonds.

Nurturing Friendships in Different Age Groups

Friendship means different things at different ages.

Infants and Toddlers (0-2 Years)

At this age, friendship is about sharing experiences. Children learn to interact through imitation. So, play with your child, laugh, make faces, and have fun together.

Preschoolers (3-4 Years)

Preschoolers start understanding shared play. They engage in parallel play and may begin to form preferences for specific peers. Encourage this, but avoid pushing any particular friendship.

School-Age Children (5-6 Years)

School-age children start forming deeper connections. They begin to understand the concept of friendship at a higher level, sharing secrets, and standing up for each other.

The Role of Parents in Children’s Friendships

As parents, we are our children’s first friends and role models.

Be a Role Model

Children learn by observing. Let them see you interacting positively with your friends, sharing, communicating openly, and resolving differences respectfully.

Guiding Children in Conflict Resolution

Teach your child that disagreements are a part of life. Help them understand the importance of apologizing and making amends.

Respect Your Child’s Choices

Support your child’s choice of friends unless there’s a serious concern. Friendships are about personal connections, and each child is different.

Fostering Friendships Outside the Family

Encourage Participation in Social Activities

Enroll your child in clubs or sports where they can meet others with similar interests. This can help them build new friendships.

Promote Healthy Digital Interactions

In our digital age, friendships can also be formed online. Teach your child the importance of maintaining respectful and safe online relationships.


Friendships are a fundamental part of a child’s development. As parents, understanding the importance of these relationships and taking active steps to foster them can set the stage for your child’s social growth.


At what age do children start making friends?

Children start making friends as early as infancy, but the understanding of friendship evolves as they grow older.

How can I encourage my child to make friends?

Encourage positive interactions, model healthy friendships, provide opportunities for social activities, and respect your child’s choices.

What should I do if my child is having trouble making friends?

Talk to them about their feelings, identify any potential issues, and seek professional help if needed.

How can I help my child maintain their friendships?

Teach them about empathy, communication, conflict resolution, and mutual respect.

How do online friendships affect children?

Online friendships can broaden a child’s social circle, but they should be taught about online safety and respectful digital communication.

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