Do Kids Need Friends?

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Human beings are social beings. We come into the world programmed to respond and relate to others. Early in life children begin to interact with children outside the family - in child care settings, play groups, and preschool programs. The friendships children have with each other are different than those they have with parents and relatives. Starting young and continuing through adulthood, friendships are among the most important activities of life.  Friendships are not just a luxury; they are a necessity for healthy psychological development.

 

 

What is having friends for?
⦁    Helping children develop emotionally and socially
⦁    Training ground for trying out different ways of relating to others
⦁    Setting up rules, weighing alternatives and make decisions when faced with dilemmas
⦁    Teaches how to win, how to lose, what's appropriate, what's not
⦁    Displays social standing and power - who's in, who's out, how to lead and how to follow, what's fair and what's not
⦁    Shows examples that they're both similar to and different from others
⦁    Friendships and belonging to a group children improve their sense of self-esteem

Having friends
About 75% of preschoolers are involved in friendships. By adolescence 80 to 90% report having mutual friends, usually including one or two best friends and several good friends.

Groups are a naturally occurring phenomenon. Belonging to a group, whether a sports team, fraternity or political party, provides a sense of belonging. Between the ages of 10 to 12 cliques form; as children mature and rely less on their parents for guidance, they turn to their peers.

The amount of time spent with friends is greatest during middle childhood and adolescence. Teenagers spend almost a third of their waking time in the company of friends. Most adolescents move away from relying on family and parents and develop close ties with friends.
When friendships are not helpful

The quality of friendship is important. The well known "peer pressure" effect which starts in early adolescence, although positive for many, can also have negative consequences. Learning to deal with peer pressure, competition and difference is a necessary part of development. Helping children deal with pressure from friends is more important than protecting them from it.

What Parents Can Do
Let your child know you feel friendships are important.  Respect your child's social style; some children do best with a host of friends, and some do best with a few close friends. Some make friends quickly, and some warm up to friends slowly.  Find practical ways you can help your child make room in his/her life for being with other children.  If your child has a problem with a friend, encourage him/her to talk about it and think together about some possible ways to handle similar situations when they arise in the future.  For example, If your child was teased, help him plan good ways of responding in the future.

Parental support, trust, patience, common sense, and luck will help children acquire the ability to deal competently with social interactions. Children need knowledgeable and sympathetic guides to help them get along with people, feel good about themselves, and be responsible for their actions.