Having a Pen Pal can promote healthy development for kids of all ages and abilities. Forming friendships with others is meaningful and beneficial to children’s personal growth and development. But how and why are they so important? Let's unpack the benefits of childhood friendship.
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As any parent knows, the friendships children form in their early childhood years will become a great support system for them.
However, the benefits of friendship for early childhood development are sometimes overlooked. Friendship can have a significant influence on the health and well-being of a child.
Thus, let's look at why positive childhood friendships are crucial to development and how parents and caregivers can nurture these relationships.
What are some of the developmental benefits of early childhood friendships?
Although friendships are important at all stages of your life, research shows that friendships are especially important to establish in younger years, before the age of 10. Friendships developed in early childhood allow children to gain and practice valuable skills related to social, communicative, and emotional growth.
Children can learn several different skills from early childhood friendships, such as:
Empathy is an important skill to have in all relationships throughout one’s life. Children will learn to empathize with others their age the more they interact with them. For instance, if they sympathize with another peer who may not have brought a snack, they may share some of their snacks with that child.
Respect is an essential skill to develop at an early age and can be exemplified in several ways, such as not speaking over another person, doing what is asked of them, and more. Whether the respect is shown toward their friend or adults, the child practicing the skill will be better off for it as they grow into adulthood.
Boundaries and Personal Space
Respecting a friend’s boundaries is another vital lesson to develop in youth. For instance, if a child asks another to stop touching their hair, and the other child abides and stops, that is the creation and respect of setting boundaries. This skill will carry on throughout the child’s life into adulthood.
Conflict and resolution
Lastly, another benefit of early childhood friendships is the development of conflict and resolution skills. These skills are essential to develop early and help children in all aspects of life. For example, if a child and their friend get into an argument, being able to resolve it on their own will help them understand how to resolve better (and prevent) those conflicts in the future.
In addition to learning basic skills, the benefits of childhood friendships are similar to those of adult friendships.
For example, like friendship in adulthood, childhood friendship:
Reduces loneliness and isolation
Provides emotional support
Allows for personal development and growth
Provides a sense of belonging
Many child psychologists have discovered that early childhood friendships can contribute to their quality of life, improvement and success at school, and ability to adjust to changes in their environment. Having friendships improves children’s overall self-esteem and makes them feel supported, ultimately allowing them to perform better in school and other aspects of life. In addition, having someone to turn to when dealing with stress can lead to healthier coping mechanisms.
Parents and caregivers can help encourage their children to create and maintain these healthy friendships in their childhood in many different ways. While there is no one solution, talking to children about their friends, asking questions, and providing advice is one way to encourage them to develop and maintain friendships.
Another way is to encourage them to participate in social events and programs, such as SoF’s Pen Pal Program. If they are shy and quiet, a pen pal program can be an alternative option that can prevent them from feeling like they have to talk-–instead, they can write!