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Helping Children Make and Keep Friends: A Guide for Parents

Two children, a little girl and a little boy, both around 5 years old, are playing a game together in a sunny park. The girl, with light brown hair in pigtails, is wearing a yellow dress, and the boy, with short dark hair, is wearing a blue t-shirt and shorts. They are smiling and laughing as they engage in a game of catch. The background shows a playground with slides and swings, and other children playing, creating a cheerful and lively atmosphere
Helping Children Make Friends

Friendships play a crucial role in a child's development, impacting their emotional well-being, social skills, and academic success. However, navigating the world of peer relationships can be challenging for some children. As parents, you can play a significant role in supporting your children as they learn to make and keep friends. Here's a comprehensive guide based on scientific insights to help you along the way.

Understanding the Importance of Friendships

Friendships provide a unique context for children to develop essential social-emotional skills, such as empathy, cooperation, and problem-solving. Positive peer relationships contribute to a child's sense of belonging and self-esteem, while also offering opportunities to practice and refine social skills​ (Psychology Today)​​ (RWJF)​.

Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends

  1. Model Positive Social Behavior: Children learn by observing the adults in their lives. Demonstrate positive social interactions, such as greeting neighbors, showing kindness, and resolving conflicts calmly. Your behavior sets a powerful example for your child​ (Psychology Today)​.

  2. Encourage Social Opportunities: Create opportunities for your child to interact with peers. This can include arranging playdates, enrolling them in extracurricular activities, and participating in community events. Regular interaction with other children helps them practice social skills and form bonds​ (Psychology Today)​​ (The Center for Literacy & Learning)​.

  3. Teach Social Skills: Explicitly teaching social skills can be beneficial. Role-playing different social scenarios, such as how to introduce oneself, take turns, or handle disagreements, can give your child the tools they need to interact confidently with peers​ (The Center for Literacy & Learning)​.

  4. Supervise and Support: While it's important to give children space to develop their own friendships, parental supervision and guidance are also crucial. Be available to offer advice and help mediate conflicts when necessary. Gradually reduce supervision as your child becomes more adept at handling social interactions independently​ (Psychology Today)​.

  5. Foster Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: Encourage your child to consider the feelings of others and respond with empathy. Discuss different emotions and appropriate ways to express them. Reading books or watching shows that highlight various social situations can also help build emotional intelligence​ (Psychology Today)​​ (The Center for Literacy & Learning)​.

Helping Your Child Keep Friends

  1. Promote Good Communication: Teach your child the importance of clear and respectful communication. This includes listening to others, expressing thoughts and feelings honestly, and resolving conflicts constructively. Good communication is the foundation of lasting friendships​ (The Center for Literacy & Learning)​.

  2. Encourage Inclusive Play: Encourage your child to be inclusive and considerate of others. Teach them the value of including different peers in activities and the importance of fairness and sharing. Inclusivity fosters a positive social environment where all children feel valued​ (The Center for Literacy & Learning)​.

  3. Address Bullying and Exclusion: Be vigilant about signs of bullying or social exclusion. If your child is being bullied or left out, take action by talking to them, supporting them emotionally, and working with teachers or counselors to address the issue. Ensuring a safe and supportive social environment is crucial for maintaining friendships​ (RWJF)​​ (The Center for Literacy & Learning)​.

  4. Nurture Self-Esteem: Help your child build self-esteem by celebrating their strengths and encouraging them to pursue their interests. A confident child is more likely to engage positively with peers and handle social challenges effectively​ (Psychology Today)​.

  5. Provide Consistent Support: Be a steady source of support for your child as they navigate their social world. Regularly check in with them about their friendships, offer guidance when needed, and be a listening ear. Knowing they have your support can empower them to develop and maintain healthy peer relationships​ (Psychology Today)​.


Helping your child make and keep friends is an ongoing process that requires patience, guidance, and support. By fostering a positive home environment, modeling good social behavior, and providing opportunities for social interaction, you can help your child develop the skills they need to build lasting and meaningful friendships.


  • Lansford, J. E. (n.d.). How Parents Influence Children’s Peer Relationships. Psychology Today. Retrieved from Psychology Today​ (Psychology Today)​.

  • Pepler, D., & Bierman, K. (2018). With a Little Help from My Friends. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved from RWJF​ (RWJF)​.

  • Center for Literacy and Learning. (n.d.). Social Skills and Peer Relationships. Retrieved from The Center for Literacy & Learning​ (The Center for Literacy & Learning)​.


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