As a parent, you’ve likely heard the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” But what does this really mean? Does it involve your own village of family members and neighbors, or is it something that lies within our children's social circle? It's both!
Parents can do their best to ensure they provide kids with an environment where positive relationships are formed at home. However, they need to be fostering these same skills in our kids' peer group. In other words, developing your child's ability to interact with their peers (or better yet: #squadgoals) is crucial.
That’s why, in this post, we will dive into how we can encourage positive relationships between young people, so you know your little one will never feel alone on the playground.
What is peer relationships?
Peer relationships refer to the relationship between two or more people of the same age, rank, or status.
In this sense, positive peer relationships are vital to our mental and physical health as we grow up! They can provide our kids with invaluable support, advice, and feedback. Even more, peer relationships may also serve to help our kids find our true purpose in life.
Since they are the same age, kids can learn from the successes, failures, emotions, and thoughts of other kids. This doesn’t mean that peers replace parents and family, but they play a big role in shaping our kids for better or worse.
Peer relationships in child development: What’s their influence?
How your child interacts with their peers can have a huge impact on their development, both now and into the future. As much as parents want to control their children’s environments, it is the peer group that truly helps shape kiddos. Kids learn how to get along and work together through positive role models in their friendship groups, providing them skill sets that will stay with them for life.
From learning how not to take things personally when a friend doesn’t like an idea, to recognizing bullying behavior, or simply understanding social cues; peer relationships help facilitate many important lessons that carry on throughout adulthood.
Peers might even encourage children to try new experiments like creative playing activities and exploring new physical skills, resulting in increased self-confidence and better cognitive abilities. Additionally, research has found that an individual's social acceptance among peers is correlated with a higher sense of well-being throughout life.
From group cooperation to collaboration in problem-solving, it is clear that having positive relationships with friends makes learning fun and allows children to develop valuable skills
5 Tips to encourage positive peer interactions
1. Model and teach positive social interactions
For kiddos, you are their first role model and, as such, they are most likely to copy what you do. That’s why, it’s important that you lead by example when it comes to teaching them how to interact with others in a positive way.
Practice kindness, respect, and empathy, take turns, and be polite by saying “please” and “thank you”. Your kiddo will want to imitate what you do and how you socialize with others!
2. Highlight the importance of being kind and having manners
By equipping children with the skills to say please and thank you, show empathy, share, and be kind to one another, they will grow up to be better communicators within their social circle. Plus, it's never too early to teach those lessons!
Good manners really do open doors and help foster positive peer relationships of all ages. From being respectful of adults to solving conflicts in a polite way, teaching kids to be polite to others will help them nurture good peer relationships.
3. Help your kid build their trust
Building trust with kids is essential, not only to cultivate strong relationships with them and ensure their overall well-being, but also to help them foster meaningful peer relationships. Kids who trust themselves and know their feelings and ideas are valid enough to be heard and respected, are more likely to develop positive relationships.
By establishing trust, kids learn to understand their peers better and develop long-lasting connections based on mutual respect. It also gives them the confidence to express themselves fully outside the comfort zone of family and friends. With trust comes the ability to feel comfortable being honest with each other, setting boundaries, negotiating disagreements and resolving conflict respectfully—all skills that are essential for successful communication as adults.
4. Build their communication skills
Children need to possess a variety of communication skills in order to successfully interact with their peers. Of particular importance are the abilities to actively listen, observe body language and nonverbal cues, ask questions and express thoughts clearly.
Taking the time to genuinely listen and comprehend what someone is saying allows for mutual understanding and builds trust between kids. Additionally, observing body language not only helps kids understand what someone may be implying, but can help them identify when another person is feeling uncomfortable. Similarly, asking questions shows interest in the conversation and encourages others to share more openly.
Lastly, it’s important for kids to practice expressing their thoughts clearly as having strong verbal communication encompasses more than simply using big words or talking excessively; indeed, it involves knowing how to speak in an understandable manner. All of these skills combined will help build strong, positive relationships with their peers—something which every kid needs!
5. Create opportunities to interact
It can be hard to make sure our kids get enough time to socialize, especially with all the responsibilities of everyday life. Fortunately, there are multiple creative and fun ways that parents and caregivers can help foster meaningful connections with peers for their children:
Planning group activities like hikes or picnics is a great way for kids to meet new friends and build relationships. If you're looking for something indoors, consider joining playgroups or hosting prescheduled playdates. Additionally, if your kiddo is introverted or homeschooled, there are many online social groups, like Boo’s Battalion, that meet regularly and have a safe environment for children to interact with their peers and make friends.
All it takes is a bit of creativity and a willingness to invest in the socialization of our children, and fun activities that keep them connected are sure to follow!
So, as you can see, nurturing positive peer relationships doesn’t have to be hard! It all starts from what you teach them at home!