The Art of Friendships
by Louise Darby
The art of making friends starts in preschool and continues all through life. Most children join preschool whilst still in the “parallel play” stage - they play alongside their peers but not together. As parents we can often feel confused because as we socialize as families our children socialize with other children. However, it is only when they truly gain independence that they begin to learn about how to make friends all by themselves.
Friendships are tough. As we go through life, even as adults, we come across people we want to be friends with, who just don’t want to be our friend and equally, people who want to be friends that we don’t necessarily have the same feelings towards. The mine field of finding our way through these friendship issues is never ending and starts in early childhood. Skills and language involved in approaching possible new friends, managing conflict with understanding and responding to friends feelings are not necessarily innate skills. We need to model and teach these skills - our children need to see us interacting with our friends, listen to how we talk to others and mimic the words we use to support one another.
Our job, as significant adults in children’s lives, is to teach them “resilience“. Teaching them that not everyone will want to always play but that is okay, and equally teaching them how to say I don’t want to play now in a kind way. These are the very experiences children need to have, and be supported through at the preschool age, to ensure they can cope in independent life as a child/teen/adult as they come up against these situations. We cannot fix everything for them and nor should we. We need to avoid falling into the trap of masterminding friendships on their behalf. Instead, we can support them and give them the self confidence to find others who want to play, along with coping skills for when they find themselves alone. These are such powerful gifts that we can give them.
Louise Darby is the Preschool Teacher at Valley Parent Preschool in Danville, CA. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org