Children's Friendships

You are my best friend,
My very best friend,
You make me happy,
You share your great snacks,
You share your best toys,
So please don't take
My best friend away.

Everybody needs friends. You just can't beat that wonderful feeling of friendship and acceptance. It is a key part of any child's development and it can't just be left to chance. As parents/carers, you may well worry when your child falls out with a friend and, naturally, want to 'make it right' for them.

Here are some thoughts and ideas on friendship issues from the viewpoint of children, parents/carers and teachers.

Friendship issues - the Child

. Your child's friendships help them to develop who they are "My friend and I both love football" or "My friend and I both love the colour blue".

. Through their friendships, children learn about leading and following, arguing and making up, sharing and feeling empathy. When two children have to negotiate turns they are learning important life lessons.

. If your child is having difficulty with their friendships at school, this will have an impact on how they feel generally and it is important that they have an opportunity to share this with someone.

. Having problems in their relationships is no different to adults in that your emotional wellbeing affects the way you go about your everyday routines. Children are going to find it hard to concentrate on school work if are having friendship problems.

. Sometimes children might not know how to express that they have fallen out with a friend. Ask your child a simple question, such as "How was Jo today"? Your child's reaction will give you all the information you need - whether in words, body language or expression.

. Through role-play and imaginary games with friends, your child learns about how to interact with others.

. Do listen to children playing these sorts of games (without them knowing)! It will give you a good insight into who they are. You will probably hear some familiar phrases too!

. Children's play allows them to 'practise' and 'test' the rules of relationships and friendships in a safe environment.

Friendship issues - the Parent/Carer

. Having friends helps children feel happy, confident, and connected, but children aren't born knowing how to build friendships. They learn it.

. As your child gets older, friendships become complex and it is vital that as a parent/carer you give time to helping them to work through friendship issues.

. Building relationships with others is equally as important as Reading, Writing or Maths!

. You play a vital part in your child's understanding of friendships. As a role model, talk about your own friends and why they are friends.

. If your child is shy and you would like to encourage them to make new friends, then it will probably take some intervention from you. As a shy parent, this may be hard for you as well. Decide on one friend your child knows at school and find a common interest and then approach the parent and invite them round to play.

. Ask your child about their friends and the reasons why, e.g. "I like ....... because they always share their toys with me" or "I like ........because we both like horses". This then gives them an opportunity to see that friendships are built for different reasons - and share your reasons for friendship choices too.

. Listen to your child if they choose to talk about a problem with a friend and take it seriously. Discuss the choices they have and how they could resolve the problem.

. Ask your child what they think they would like a good friend to be like towards them. Then ask how they think they are a good friend to others! This helps them to see that it is a two way process.

. If it is obvious your child is upset and doesn't want to talk, perhaps get them to draw/paint a picture or use puppets/toys to illustrate how they feel about their friends.

. If your child is experiencing friendship problems, do not hesitate in going to see your child's class teacher. No matter how small, if it is causing your child to be upset the class teacher will be happy to help resolve any friendship difficulties.

Friendship issues - the Teacher

. In school, friendships are just much an important part of the curriculum as Mathematics, P.E or Writing. Children need to be taught the skills of being able to work as part of a group and how to resolve conflicts.

. PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) is taught as a subject as well as being an ongoing part of your child's education.

PSHE focuses on these main areas:

. Developing confidence and responsibility and making the most of their abilities

. Preparing to play an active role as citizens

. Developing a healthy, safer lifestyle

. Developing good relationships and respecting the differences between people

Many classes have a special time called Circle Time, which is a time when the class sit in a circle, play games and have a chance to discuss social issues. Many teachers use puppets and pose a problem for the children to resolve together, e g "Our friend, Puppet, is feeling lonely today. He hasn't got anyone to play with. How can we help him? What would you say to him? How do you think he feels? Have you ever felt like that? What would you do if you saw someone in the playground like Puppet today?"

Encouraging Children to Sort Out Their Own Disputes

Here is a strategy I find really effective in encouraging children to sort out their own disputes independently. When the children are ready to talk, give them a sand timer and ask them to face each other. The objective is to try to arrive at a mutual resolution in the time given. Obviously, this depends on the 'nature' of the problem and the age of the children.

Children need to be taught the language and words to say when someone does or says something they don't like. I tell the children in my class to say, "I don't like what you are doing because..........and if you carry on I will tell an adult".

As a teacher, I comment explicitly when I see 'good friendship models' in class, such as, (Name the child) I really like the way that you have just shared your pencils with the other children on your table.

The result is a beaming, proud child and the others desperate to copy the fantastic behaviour!

I have found that most children have a strong sense of what makes a good friend. If a child is not behaving appropriately towards their peers, the other children are usually keen to show that they can 'do the right thing'!

Talk is Good!

Children are 'social learners' and learn by copying other people, so as adults we act as good role models.

Children need to know that they are being listened to and heard. The more you learn how to listen to your child, the more you will be able to support their emotional needs. This in turn will only improve their potential to learn. The better and sooner children learn to communicate, the more easily they will form friendships and their confidence and self-esteem will increase.


Author Emma Biddle

NB: This article has been written with children aged 4-11 in mind, however, some things may apply to older children as well.

We are really lucky to have this expert advice from Emma, but who is she? Read on…..

"I have been a primary school teacher for 20 years, having gained a BEd Hons degree at Kingston-Upon-Thames Polytechnic in Surrey.

I started my teaching career in East Molesey, Surrey where I taught Key Stage Two (7 - 11 year olds). My love of Literacy lead me to become the Literacy Subject Leader in the school. My next teaching post was in a multi-cultural school in Vauxhall in London where I taught between years 2 and 3. I also took on the Literacy Subject Leader role and enjoyed being involved in several Literacy projects in Westminster.

In both of these schools, I ran drama clubs and put on several productions with children, where I have enjoyed seeing children shine and show their creativity!

From London, I moved to Bournemouth in Dorset where I am still living and teaching now. I have taught all ages from 4 to 11 years and am currently teaching Year 1 (5/6 year olds). As well as leading Literacy in schools, I have also been a Literacy Demonstration Teacher within the Borough, where I worked alongside and taken on an advisory role with other teachers.

Finally, I have seen many changes in my educational career to date, some good and some not! But one factor which remains the same is the children. It is a privilege and a passion of mine to work with every child in my care to ensure that they receive the best care and education. I hope that you find my articles of use and would welcome any feedback. After all, we are all working together!

Emma Biddle

Your Views

Posted by:

Posts: 52


Childrens Friendships

Excellent article, very useful.

complain about this post

Posted: 10/Nov/10 at 12:06:58

Posted by:
Larry Woods

Posts: 15




When children join school they usually develop friends easily, but sometimes they might face issues with friends which the parents should be aware of. They should guide their children properly to resolve these issues in the right manner. However, the parents have to be really selective about the school they choose for their kids. They should choose schools like Bullfrogs & Butterflies Childcare which is a reputed preschool in Thornton CO.

complain about this post

Posted: 17/Jul/15 at 11:29:45

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