What I Can and Can’t Teach My Child about Friendship

by On August 5, 2013 in Childrens Books, General, Reading

If you missed National Friendship Day?(the first Sunday in August), don’t panic!?At least one?source?said this homage to friendship lasts all week! You’ve still got time to call your best buds!

I didn’t panic because my four best buds and I appreciate our blessings every day.?The “youngest friendship” of these is 13 years old; two friendships have lasted three decades each. The oldest friendship is marked by 48 years with Jo, my buddy since we were 5-year old giggly-girl neighbors. We still get together, trading stories about kids, work and life. Sometimes we chuckle recalling the major feuds we had as kids. Oh, the silent treatments and efforts to make each other jealous!

My daughter Hope is fascinated to hear about mommy’s childhood friendship dramas. I share these stories to make two points:

  • Even the best friendships endure major arguments, hurt feelings, and misunderstandings.
  • Both the good times and bad times can help friendships grow.

As a parent, I’m reminded just how early these friendship lessons begin! For Hope, things already got tricky during Kindergarten last year, when her close friend suddenly stopped wanting to play or share confidences. Hope asked that awful question: “Why does she hate me?” ?The mystery problem never blew over, school ended, and Hope was crushed.

friends at the beach

My first thoughts were “I’m going to talk to that girl and her parents!” But I stopped myself (thankfully) and just talked to Hope. We discussed possible reasons for her friend’s behavior and what Hope might say or do next. I left the call to her.

That strategy is similar to “the lifeguard approach” described by child psychologists in Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children (Random House, 2002). The idea is that parents should first teach kids the basics of navigating friendship waters, then keep an eye on the scene and give safety tips, “jumping in” only if support is needed (such as when bullying is suspected).

First grade will start in a few weeks. I’m happy Hope’s school has a focus on friendship counseling with lessons about communicating, fair play, managing anger, and empathy. It’s a very cool thing to hear your kid talk about empathy.

I’m also happy for the many wonderful children’s books available on friendship:

  • Vanderbilt University’s Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning offers a helpful list of recommended titles by age.
  • Bookboard also offers families some terrific books on making friends, resolving fights, friendship adventures, even saying goodbye to a friend and maintaining a long-distance friendship.? Check out the above collection for some great reads to share with your kids!



Diana is a sociologist, freelance writer and mom, though rarely in that order. Her writing spans topics from parenting joys and challenges to prevention education. She writes a monthly parenting blog for Yahoo and has published feature articles on adoption, family rituals and the childcare industry for parenting publications. Diana earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Santa Cruz. These days find her hanging with her husband and book-loving six year old in the San Francisco Bay Area, while happily blogging and serving as a reading advocate for Bookboard.

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