Healthy Friendships Expand a Child’s World


Published:

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

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

When Children Hear Horror Stories on the News

How do you nurture a children's confidence in a safe world even when they are exposed to disturbing news.

Motivating Children: Tips for Tapping Their Inner Drive

Think your child is lazy and unmotivated? Perhaps you just haven't found the right motivational mojo.

Winning and Learning from Children's Clothing Battles

Learn how to sail through those unwanted clothing battles that winter brings.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

December 2019

Wear your favorite holiday attire and dine with Santa Claus. Enjoy a delicious brunch, stories and crafts, and take pictures with the jolly man from the North Pole. 

Cost: $10/child. Free for ages 2 and younger

Where:
Joyner Park Community Center
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Girls ages 5-12 take their favorite doll and have a creative time together preparing for the holidays. Register by emailing llpolkhouse2@gmail.com.

Cost: $22/attendee, $20/sister

Where:
Historic Polk House
537 N. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Telephone: 919-676-6368
Website »

More information

See dancers and a guitarist from Flamenco Carolina perform a Spanish style of music and dance.

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

Ebeneezer Scrooge was visited by three spirits, but what about the next Christmas? With heartwarming excitement, discover how the Cratchit family has fared in the year that has passed since old...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

The Durham Medical Orchestra performs with special guest Joseph Alessi, principal trombone, New York Philharmonic.

Cost: Free

Where:
Baldwin Auditorium, Duke University
1336 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

As a Christmas gift to our community and surrounding area, Wake Forest Presbyterian Church delivers the true Christmas story in a stirring virtual “walk” through Bethlehem to the stable...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
12605 Capital Blvd
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Sponsor: Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
Telephone: 919-556-7777
Contact Name: Meghan Reynolds
Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

The choir presents its 49th performance on Handel's "Messiah."

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The first day of winter is right around the corner! Help us welcome the season by making a snow globe to take home. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all ages (adult...

Cost: For all ages (adult accompaniment required for all children); FREE. Registration

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850

More information

Children will enjoy this wonderful book written by John Denver reminding us not to forget about the wildlife this holiday season. We will make a craft then take a walk to look for our wildlife...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join RTOOT as it performs the music of great Italian composers as well as beloved Christmas classics. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $9/adult, $3 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Dan the Animal Man brings some of his animals from his vast collection to entertain all ages. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

Help find candy canes hidden in Bond Park before the Grinch turns them green. Ages 6-12. Registration required online. Choose course #127871. 

Cost: $10/child

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Get into the holiday spirit by decorating cooking, making a craft and enjoying a holiday children's show.

Cost: Free

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

The Wake Forest Abilities Choir will present an evening of holiday music under the direction of director.

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Celebrate pecans at the State Farmers Market.

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us to learn about how Habitat for Humanity helps build houses, hear a Christmas tale and then build a graham cracker house of your own. Call to, 919-245-2532. Best for ages 4 and up with a...

Cost: free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Is there a man in the moon, and is the moon made of cheese? Sip on some hot cocoa and listen to some of the stories people have told about the moon and find out if there is truth to them. Then...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for everyone, and adult accompanime

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Discover family traditions from North Carolina and around the globe. Create art, enjoy free access to Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism, and have a special visit with Santa.

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art East Building and Museum Plaza
Raleigh, NC


Website »

More information

Bundle up and enjoy an evening around the campfire learning about creatures of the night and listen to Native American tales about some of our favorite nocturnal animals. Roast marshmallows and go...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Kids ages 5-12 enjoy indoor activities while parents enjoy a night out. Register online. 

Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Wear white clothing and play games, tumble and dance. Enjoy pizza, drinks and more. Ages 5-10. Registration required online. Choose course #127487.

Cost: $18/child; $28 for two children per family

Where:
Middle Creek Community Center
125 Middle Creek Ave.
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Website »

More information

Friday, December 13, 6:00pm, at both the Millbrook and Wake Forest Campuses. Put on your Christmas jammies, grab a blanket and come out for a  festive night to watch the classic animated...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crossroads Fellowship
2721 E Millbrook Road
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: Crossroads Fellowship
Telephone: 919-981-0222
Contact Name: Lorraine Entwisle
Website »

More information

Have some fun and make something great at the Clay studio (and parents can sneak away and grab a bite or do some shopping at Northgate Mall). Each kid will complete and paint a piece of pottery...

Cost: $18 per child per workshop

Where:
1058 West Club Blvd
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Telephone: 919-560-2726
Contact Name: Lauren Tannenbaum
Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Sing along with the band as they perform holiday favorites of Christmas, Hanukkah, the winter solstice and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Celebrate the love and joy that this season brings by creating art inspired by a Christmas tree. Register online. Choose course #126761.

Cost: $32/resident, $42/nonresident

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Give rugby a try. Take part in tag rugby pick-up games every Saturday morning at Baileywick Road Park, near the Second Shelter.  No experience necessary. All ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
Website »

More information

Our Reindeer Romp is open to the entire community and our Girls on the Run families. So join us! Celebrate as nearly 1,000 girls reach their end-of-season goals – the finish line is only the...

Cost: $30 - $35

Where:
Koka Booth Amphitheater
8003 Regency Pkwy
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Sponsor: Girls on the Run of the Triangle
Telephone: 919-401-6307
Contact Name: Jamie Botta
Website »

More information

Ages 5-12 make a picture frame for the holidays. Snack provided. Register online. 

Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Travel with us to Puerto Rico with books, games and arts and crafts!  Join the staff of ISLA (Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition) for a fun filled hour! Best for ages 3 and up with a...

Cost: Free Gratis

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

One ticket admits the entire family to decorate a special gingerbread house. Supplies provided. Workshops available at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Allergy-free workshop available at 11 a.m....

Cost: $40

Where:
Family Preschool
4907 Garrett Rd
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Family Preschool
Telephone: 919-402-1500
Contact Name: Sue Henson
Website »

More information

Family Wildlife Series: Holiday Habitat Helpers Saturday, December 14, 2-3 Attract winter wildlife to your backyard by providing or improving their habitat.  Create simple outdoor decorations...

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us as we watch for meteors during the Gemenids Meteor Shower. Local astronomers will help us observe these shooting stars and other phenomena in the night sky. As a bonus we may see or hear...

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

Favorite Christmas songs are presented in authentic Nashville country style with dazzling guitars and fiddles along with soaring harmonies. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $25/person

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

See the choir perform beloved Christmas songs with guest vocal group AVANTE. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Newsletter Sign-Up

Stay connected to what's going on for families in the Triangle by signing up for our FREE e-newsletters!

Subscribe

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags