Email Header
January/February 2024

Friends are very important to children's healthy development. Friendships provide children with more than just fun playmates. They help them develop emotionally and morally. When interacting with friends, children learn many social skills, such as how to communicate, cooperate, and solve problems. They practice controlling their emotions and responding to the emotions of others. They develop the ability to think through and negotiate different situations that arise in their relationships.
Parents can do a lot to help their child make and keep friends as many of the skills involved can be learned at home with family.
All around the world, successful friendship depends on the same, fundamental skills. These include:
  • regulate negative emotions
  • understand other people‘s emotions and perspectives
  • show empathy, and offer help to friends in need
  • feel secure and trusting of other people
  • know how to handle introductions, and participate in conversation
  • be capable of cooperation, negotiation, and compromise
  • know how to apologize, and make amends 
  • be understanding (and forgiving) of other people‘s mistakes
  • setting and respecting boundaries
It's a long list, and parents play an essential role in supporting their children in acquiring these skills through experience, effort, and practice.


 All of us experience negative emotions and selfish impulses. Does it prevent us from maintaining good friendships? No. Not if we know how to keep these responses under control. So children need to learn how to regulate their own emotions.
In one study, researchers found that  kids were more likely to develop strong self-regulation skills if they had  parents who talked with them — empathetically and constructively — about how to cope with bad moods and difficult feelings. And the stronger a child’s self-regulation skills, the more likely that child was to develop positive peer relationships.

So when kids get upset, it’s worth taking the time to understand their feelings, and to actively teach them how to handle these feelings in a healthy, constructive way. For more information see Emotion Coaching and Self Regulation in the Resources section.


Children need to do more than control their own, negative emotions. They also need to understand the emotions and perspectives of others. There are concrete things that parents can do to help kids develop their emotion-savvy.
Have family meetings. Hold family meetings when there are family challenges or conflicts, and in those meetings give children a voice and encourage them to take the perspective of other family members. Listen carefully to your children’s views and ask your children to listen carefully to the views of others.
Encourage empathy for peers. Ask children about their classmates and other peers. Ask children when they’re in conflicts with peers to consider their peers’ perspectives.

Understand those who are different or struggling. Emphasize with your child the importance of really listening to others, especially those people whom they don’t immediately understand. Encourage children to consider the feelings of those who may be vulnerable, such as a child experiencing some personal challenges. Give children some simple ideas for taking action, like comforting a classmate who is being teased.
Discuss ethical dilemmas. Discuss with your child ethical dilemmas that help them appreciate various perspectives, e.g., “Should I invite a new friend to my birthday party when my best friend doesn't like them?”

Reflect on empathy and caring. Notice with your child when you’re together and someone exhibits strong empathy—or shows a lack of empathy—either in your daily life or in a book or on television. Discuss why acts of empathy are important. 


Building trust with your child comes down to thinking about what helps you build trust with the important people around you. As parents, establishing confidence and assurance that our kids can rely on us in every way is vitally important for them to establish healthy friendships.

Keep your promises. As a parent you should only make promises that you can reasonably keep. Life happens, so think about that before saying the the words, “I promise” to your child. With just one small broken promise, your child’s trust can diminish significantly.
Be honest with children. Of course you need to maintain age appropriate levels of honesty, but if you are always honest with your child they will begin to trust you naturally without much effort.  

Remain consistent in your parenting. One job as a parent is to be consistent, set boundaries and follow through on consequences that you established. Being consistent and predictable helps children feel secure because they know what to expect.
Be reliable. Consistently meeting your child's needs, keeping promises, and providing emotional support establishes a sense of security. Through dependable behavior, parents demonstrate a commitment to their children's well-being, creating a strong foundation for a trusting and enduring relationship.


Teach your child conversation skills. To make new friends, kids need to learn how to introduce themselves, think of appropriate things to say, learn how to listen and provide conversational feedback.  How do you foster these skills?
You can help by modeling good communication skills at home, and engaging  kids in pleasant, reciprocal conversations about their day, about their interactions, and how things made them feel. Listen more than you talk.
Children benefit when you teach them the art of “active listening.” That’s when a person makes it clear that they are paying attention — by making appropriate eye contact, orienting the body in the direction of the speaker, remaining quiet, and making relevant verbal responses. 

You can teach kids to become better conversationalists by offering them these concrete tips:
When starting a conversation with someone new, trade information about your “likes” and “dislikes.”

Don’t be an interviewer. Don’t merely ask questions. Offer information about yourself but don’t take over the conversation. When engaged in conversation, only answer the question at hand. When you’re done, give your partner the chance to talk.


Cooperation involves working together, respecting others‘ opinions, and compromising when necessary. Cooperation is about making sure children know how to be on a team or work in a group towards a common goal. Teaching children cooperation can be approached through practical and engaging methods. Here are some strategies:
Role modelling. A child can learn about cooperation and its importance through their family members. When they see parents help each other while cleaning the house or doing dishes. Or when they notice how one family member takes turns when more than one person wants the same thing. They watch, listen, and learn cooperation skills by imitating the actions and words of parents and other family members.

Family clean-up time. Designate a specific time each day or week for a family clean-up. During this time, everyone works together to tidy up common areas in the house. 

Family activities. Plan family activities that require cooperation. Board games, team sports, or group projects encourage children to work together towards a common goal.

Family challenges. Introduce challenges that can only be overcome through teamwork. This could involve puzzle-solving, building projects, or any activity where collective effort is essential.


Teaching children to apologize and admit mistakes is an essential aspect of nurturing their friendships. The ultimate goal is to help children understand the significance of taking responsibility for their actions. Following are some strategies:
Create a safe environment. Foster an environment where children feel safe admitting mistakes. Emphasize that everyone makes errors, and it's a part of learning and growing. 

Use simple language. When explaining the concept of apologizing, use simple and age-appropriate language. Help children understand that saying sorry is a way to show they recognize when they've done something wrong.
Teach the components of an apology.  Break down the apology into components, including expressing remorse ("I'm sorry"), acknowledging the specific behavior or mistake, and showing a commitment to do better.

Avoid forced apologies. Instead of insisting on forced apologies, help children understand the reasons behind the apology.  Encourage them to recognize and  understand how their actions hurt someone else.
Encourage self-reflection. Prompt children to reflect on their actions and the consequences. Help them understand the reasons behind their behavior, what they could have done differently and how they can avoid making the same mistake again.

Apologize together. Apologize together if you make a mistake that involves your child. This approach reinforces the idea that apologizing is a shared responsibility.


Kids can be forgiving, but it doesn’t always come naturally. To nurture this quality, guide your child in considering alternative explanations for behavior  Maybe it was an accident, maybe they were feeling tired or ill, maybe they were having a bad day, and you happened to get in the way.
When adults ask kids to think about other explanations, they are more likely to give the perpetrator the benefit of the doubt.

It's important to recognize that not every child requires this guidance. Some kids are too indulgent towards wrong-doers. They blame themselves when they get treated badly, and remain in friendships that leave them always being mistreated. Tailor your support to each child's needs, considering the specific circumstances.


Assisting children in setting boundaries involves teaching them the importance of personal space and autonomy. Encourage open communication about individual comfort levels and empower children to express their limits assertively. At the same time instill the value of respecting others' boundaries.
Do you enjoy the monthly Snapshots? 

Do you have suggestions on how to improve the Snapshots?

Do you have ideas for future topics?

Let us know! We would love to hear from you!

Submit Feedback
Upcoming Parenting Support
Visit the archived Snapshots that cover a variety of topics such as social media, friendships, bullying, alcohol, drugs, vaping, conflict resolution, consent and more!
Elementary Snapshots Middle Snapshots Secondary Snapshots
The content provided through the Snapshots is for informational purposes only. It includes general information and does not specifically address the diverse child rearing challenges parents and caregivers may encounter.  Readers are encouraged to verify information and consider their individual circumstances when making decisions. The content is not a substitute for professional advice. *The term "parent" as used in the Snapshot is inclusive of anyone who is actively involved in raising a child, whether it be biological parents, adoptive parents, guardians, or any other caretakers.
Full Image