Q&A: Developing healthy friendships

Q: How can I help my young daughter develop healthy friendships? I know how easy it can be for children to make the wrong kinds of friends or to establish connections with others for the wrong reasons. What can I do to provide some helpful guidance in this area?

A: Parents play a crucial role in teaching children how to develop and maintain healthy friendships. Often this happens unconsciously, but it helps if mum and dad can find ways to be intentional about it.

The first step is to guide your child in the development of strong positive virtues. In other words, you have to begin by helping her become the kind of person who can be a good friend. By modelling and discussing these virtues, you can protect your daughter from many of the heartaches that result from unwise associations. Some of the most important qualities you can build into her character include honesty, loyalty, respect, compassion, and acceptance.

The second step is to build your child’s confidence. A healthy self-esteem increases the likelihood that she will make wise choices about the connections she forms with others. You can build her confidence by affirming her strengths and congratulating her when she does something well. Spending time with her on an individual basis communicates the message that you value her as a person and enjoy her company.

You can also enhance the process of meeting new people by involving your child in socially interactive activities, such as sports or music. And you can encourage friendships by throwing parties or inviting her friends over for dinner – say, a different child over every other week.

Making friends can be a challenge for any of us, at any age, but it’s facilitated by remembering the classic Golden Rule: “Treat others the way you want them to treat you.”

© 2018 Focus on the Family.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

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