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Friendship: An Important Part of Your Child's Development 
 
by Mary M. Alward August 09, 2005

All humans are social beings. We are born with the capabilities to relate and respond to others. How do kids build friendships? When should they start to interact with their peers, how do friendships affect them as they grow and why is it so important for kids to have friends?

All humans are social beings. When we are born, we’re already programmed to relate and respond to others. When an infant hears a familiar voice, he will turn his head. While children are still young, they respond to other children. They learn to interact at daycare, preschool programs and parks. The friendships they build with other children are far different than the relationships they build with parents, grandparents and other family members. Relationships within the family circle are close, with a deep sense of intimacy that is easy to maintain. However, family relationships can’t take the place of friends.

 Why Kids Need Friends

Friendships are important in order to help kids grow emotionally and socially. Kids make friends to try out different ways to relate to a range of relationships; take and give, compromise and share. Friendships teach them how to establish guidelines, make decisions and solve problems. Within these relationships they experience aggression, anger, fear, rejection and even betrayal. They learn appropriate social behavior, how to become a leader, how to follow, fairness and how to win and lose gracefully. They learn that different friends and different social situations call for different social behavior and also that not everyone sees things from the same point of view. Their friends have different view and opinions and they learn to respect the viewpoints of others.

Kids find out who they are by comparing themselves to others. It doesn’t take them long to realize where they stand in the social pecking order. They learn that people are similar in many ways, but also that all people are different. They learn about attitude, character and personality. Building good relationships boosts a child’s self esteem and they find comfort in those friendships when things get tough. Moving, attending a new school, losing a beloved pet, going through a family crisis and facing real life issues never seems so bad when they have a friend to talk to and someone they feel they can depend on for moral support.

Friendships are essential to assure children develop a healthy psyche. When kids are surrounded by friends or have one close friend, they have better self esteem, feel a sense of well being and experience fewer social problems. These positive influences remain with them into adulthood. Kids who feel they have no friends have low self esteem, have social problems, often feel lonely, have trouble relating to others and are often the victims of bullying or teasing. This can lead to depression and in rare cases, suicide in their teens.

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