Healthy Friendships Expand a Child’s World


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Friendships allow children to explore a world separate from their parents. Poet and clergyman George Herbert once said: “The best mirror is an old friend.” Friendships help shape our identity and form opinions about ourselves and our environment, and one of the most important skills we learn as human beings is how to navigate within relationships.

According to area experts, children typically seek friendships that mimic relationships within their own family. Children learn relationship skills by observing how their parents get along with each other and with them, says Donald Rosenblitt, a child psychiatrist, clinical director and founder of the Lucy Daniels Center in Cary.

“One thing parents can keep in mind is that you help children in the middle years by doing a lot of preparation prior to those ages,” Rosenblitt says. “It’s important to instill strong values and help kids think through friendships and make choices early in life. These children, in all likelihood, will carry those values through to the next stage when they have to do this on their own.”

What is a healthy friendship?

Talk with children of all ages about the characteristics of healthy friendships and the importance of choosing friends carefully. According to Dr. Colleen Hamilton, clinical psychologist at Lepage Associates in Durham, a good friendship may include the following:
- Common interests.
- Treating friends the way you want to be treated.
- Paying attention when friends are talking.
- Keeping a friend’s confidences.
- Sharing with friends.
- Truthfulness.
- Sticking up for a friend.
- Taking turns with a friend.

Healthy friendships are reciprocal and mutual. In a healthy relationship, a child is neither totally dominant nor totally passive and enjoys a variety of activities with a friend.

“What you want to see is that the children don’t seem overly sensitive or overly dependant, but have the friendship as a source of pleasure and are using this relationship to expand their world,” Rosenblitt says.

Signs a child is developing healthy friendships include:
- A child takes pleasure and pride in friendships.
- Despite some disagreements, the overall experience is positive.
- A child develops preferences for particular children.

As a child ages, the child needs less adult intervention and assistance in friendships. See the resource information below for guidance to help children manage relationships.

Setting the stage

“The only way to have a friend is to be one,” the saying goes, and that holds true for every generation. Provide children the opportunity to interact with others.

Hamilton says parents can be aware of a child’s peers and observe a child’s interaction with others in a social setting. “Ongoing monitoring of the child’s choices and behaviors can serve as guidelines for future discussions regarding healthy friendships,” she says. “Topics to focus on [when talking with children] include friendliness, ability to share and responsiveness to others feelings.”

Parents can comment on specific behaviors and choices of a child and a child’s peers during discussions of daily events, Hamilton adds. “In doing this, the parent guides the child in developing standards for behavior,” she says. “This ability to assess the behavior of others allows the child to make healthy decisions when choosing friends without the parent telling the child who they can and cannot be friends with.”

Young children are learning how to interact with others

Preschoolers require more monitoring than children of other ages. Young children are learning to share and to take turns, which require children to be patient and think about the needs of others, often for the first time

Preschool children learn to resolve differences with their peers by navigating the rough spots in relationships, sometimes with the help of adults. At this age, children begin to put themselves in another person’s shoes while also considering their own needs and feelings. Finding this balance between our own needs and the needs of others is a constant consideration in relationships.

“If children can recognize another’s perspective, but give due weight to their own, they will be able to handle any situation,” Rosenblitt says.

At this age, it is the parent’s responsibility to remove a child from harmful or damaging relationships.

Elementary school children explore through friendships

School-age children often need much less intervention related to peer interactions. Unless a child is unable to handle a situation, parents can allow children to use these years to explore the world with their peers.

If a relationship is undesirable, parents can be straightforward with a child and coach the child to consider making some changes in the relationship. Forbidding relationships from this age forward is a last resort for when a child is in danger or involved in illegal activities.

Middle school children need guidance about acceptable behaviors

Parents have somewhat less control over friend choices when children reach the teen years, so they should establish clear rules and boundaries regarding appropriate behavior, according to Hamilton.

“Have early and frequent conversations with your child regarding school expectations, treatment of others, sexual activity and substance use,” Hamilton says. “Make your position clear and assist your child in developing coping skills if faced with these issues, so that they are confident in their ability to make good choices.”

She suggests rehearsing ways children can say “no” when faced with negative peer pressure.

Continue to spend time with your child by engaging in activities your teen enjoys.

From ages 12 to 14, peer relationships take on an intense quality that will not occur previously or afterward. Friend selection is a common worry for parents of teens, particularly since many children often don’t ask for or want advice at this age. Parental interference can damage communication, so it’s wise to gauge how open a child is to suggestions.

“The more concerned you are about a friendship, the more likely you are to have to say something,” Rosenblitt says.

If children have solid values, they will not typically seek out friends whose value system is extremely different than their own.

“If they have been raised in an environment in which they have been respected and in which they have seen their parents be respectful, then they are likely to choose friends at the ages of 12 to 14 who are respectful of them, the environment and others,” Rosenblitt says.

High school students need to share their social plans

High school is a time when parents are faced with all the pros and cons of a child with a full social life that may include dating. It’s important for parents to be authoritative when peer groups may include risks of substance abuse, violence or delinquent behavior.

Be familiar with a child’s friends and activities. Make it a point to know: Where they are going. With whom they are going. Who is transporting them. When they will be home. Parents should also establish a consequence for not following the agreed-on plan.

“One of the most important aspects for parents is striking the balance between guiding your child and letting them make their own decisions,” says Teresa Greco, a licensed clinical social worker at the Lucy Daniels Center.

Accepting a child’s desire to test different peers is a necessary part of parenting.

Model healthy friendships

Being invested in your own healthy relationships is among the best ways to teach children about relationships. Your child learns about healthy friendships by monitoring your friendships and experiencing healthy relationships within the family.

“One of the big things is modeling the behavior you want to see,” says Lisa Phillips of Cary, mother of two girls. “Treat your child the way you would want your child to treat others,” she says.

Phillips enjoys hosting social activities at her home. “That way I can see the interactions between the children, and after the fact sometimes I can suggest ways the children might have handled various social situations,” she says.

Parents can take many steps to give a child the skills to make friends and choose friends wisely.

“Always remember that a child’s first and strongest model of a good relationship is their own relationship with their parents,” Hamilton says. Show continued love and concern for your child and maintain a level of trust and respect, she adds. “These aspects of the parent-child relationship will continue to have a powerful influence over the child and the choices they make,” Hamilton says.

Carol McGarrahan is a Triangle-based health writer.

Help Children Have Positive Friendships

Parents can help children build positive friendships with the following suggestions for various age groups:

Preschool
-Discuss the characteristics of healthy friendships.
-Stress the importance of choosing friends wisely.
-Allow uninterrupted play unless an altercation occurs.

Elementary School
-Discuss desirable qualities in a friend.
-Discuss daily peer interactions. If a child complains a friend is consistently “mean” to them, a parent might say: “It’s certainly up to you if you want them as a friend, but I wouldn’t like it if a friend did that to me.”
-Encourage children to resolve disagreements in an otherwise healthy friendship.
-Explain that it is OK to terminate a friendship without being unkind. A child can say: “I would like to be friends with you if you can treat me better, but I don’t really want to be your friend otherwise.”

Middle School
-Listen.
-Ask questions like: “Do you think that was kind?” and “What would be the best way to handle that?”
-Explain that it is OK not to be friends as long as you are not unkind.

High School
-Provide limited comments on friend choices, such as: “Well, I don’t really know whether they share the same interests you do.”
-Ask the desired goals of a particular friendship.
-Provide structure like curfews and methods of contact. At all ages, accept a child’s need to explore while prohibiting friendships that are harmful or involve illegal activities.

Reasons for terminating a friendship:
-A child is being mistreated.
-A child is mistreating another.
-Another child is a poor model or exposes a child to undesirable activities.
-Friendships are restrictive or reinforce unhealthy habits.
-Children are consistently involved with much younger children who do not advance growth.

Source: Lucy Daniels Center for Early Childhood

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Cost: $12.95 materials fee

Where:
Wildflower School at Belle Vie Farm
3100 Damascus Church Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
View map »


Sponsor: Wildflower School at Belle Vie Farm
Telephone: 919-260-6859
Contact Name: Shelley Welch
Website »

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in February!   This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in July! This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds at...

Cost: 0 – $10

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Chip, chip, hooray! The first Zambrero in the Southeast is opening on January 24 with zingy, zesty activities! Bodacious Burritos and Bowls: $5 burritos and bowls all day Delicious Drawing: A...

Cost: Free

Where:
1 Glenwood Ave
#105
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: (919) 863-2561
Website »

More information

Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Take a hike after dark and enjoy the sights and sounds of a quiet night along the American Tobacco Trail. We will walk to the Beaver Creek bridge and back (about one mile total). Free for ages 4...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Join the Museum and the Raleigh Astronomy Club to help you see the big picture — of the Universe! From comet crafts to solar observing, lectures to rocket launches, space enthusiasts of all ages...

Cost: Free

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in July! This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds at...

Cost: 0 – $10

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the Kids Exchange Spring/Summer Consignment Sale in February!   This FREE ADMISSION event is the largest kids consignment sale in the nation and is held at the NC State Fairgrounds...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jim Graham Building
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »

More information

Family Wildlife Series: Tricky Tracks Saturday, January 25 10-11 a.m. Come dressed for the weather so you can roam the park learning the fine art of “tracking”.   Make a cast of an animal...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

RALEIGH (Jan. 16, 2020) – The North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools will host its first school fair during National School Choice Week on Saturday, Jan. 25. The fair will take...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: NC Association of Public Charter Schools
Telephone: 336-669-9996
Contact Name: Rhonda Dillingham
Website »

More information

Join the statewide kickoff to Black History Month at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. Named a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society since 2015, the 19th...

Cost: 0

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 East Edenton Street
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Just in time to keep up with those home improvement resolutions for 2020, the Downtown Raleigh Home Show returns to downtown’s Raleigh Convention Center January 24-26, 2020  with a jam-packed...

Cost: Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Marketplace Events
Telephone: 904-608-3823
Contact Name: Liz Morgan

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Spanish Alive is providing Family Spanish classes starting in January! Join us to learn Spanish as an entire family in an immersive, fun environment. Our teachers are trained Spanish educators and...

Cost: $75-$216

Where:
Spanish Alive
156 E. Chatham St
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Rumpelstiltskin-A Tale of Gold Book by Ellie FaggionMusic and Lyrics written by Brian Shrager and Ellie FaggionProduced by special arrangement with the author.Directed by Beth Wilson...

Cost: varies

Where:
Spiritual Twist Productions
1250 Aversboro Road
Garner, NC  27529
View map »


Sponsor: Spiritual Twist Productions
Telephone: 919-977-1976
Contact Name: Kathy MacDonald
Website »

More information

Winter days find many animals curled up in their dens. They sleep warmly, awakening in spring ready to enjoy the renewed Earth. Discover how animals deal with cold weather and which ones hibernate...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for all family members,& childre

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

Join us in Arendelle for Frozen-inspired STEAM activities for the whole family! Included in the ticket cost is dinner and dessert for the whole family, make your own sock Olaf and Frozen bouncy...

Cost: $35 per family

Where:
Kidzu Children's Museum
201 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Kidzu Children's Museum
Telephone: 919-933-1455
Website »

More information

AML Wrestling presents our 5th Anniversary Celebration! WHEN: Saturday, January 25th, 2020WHERE: Winston-Salem Fairgrounds in theHome & Garden Building 408 27th Street NW/Gate #9 Winston-Salem, NC...

Cost: $5

Where:
Winston-Salem Fairgrounds
408 27th Street NW/Gate #9
Winston-Salem, NC  27105
View map »


Sponsor: AML Wrestling
Telephone: 336-831-0646
Contact Name: Tracy Myers
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

David Burney, lead singer for the acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute band Johnny Folsom 4, brings his one-man show to The ArtsCenter for three shows, January 24-26, 2020.  In “Hello, I’m...

Cost: $15 to $20

Where:
The ArtsCenter
300-G East Main St.
300-G East Main Street.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Sponsor: The ArtsCenter
Telephone: 919-929-2787
Contact Name: Patrick Phelps-Mckeown
Website »

More information

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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.