You’re Not My Friend Anymore…
This is a statement we often hear one minute then the next they are best friends. It is important to remember early peer relationships have a long-term effect on children and these interactions (both good and bad) have an important impact on a child’s emotional development.
When our children interact or play with their peers, they are learning so many valuable skills. Understanding how to express themselves, how to take turns and how to apply empathy are hard skills to teach and best learnt in practice. These are skills that are emerging for young children.
When our children feel a sense of belonging and security, stress and anxiety is reduced for them, which leaves children in a position to engage, learn and develop. I believe friendships help to support this sense of belonging by encouraging confidence and independence. I often tell families that our children learn as much from peers as they do from experienced Educators. Learning to communicate and navigate their way through a day or experience without Mum or Dad around to speak for them or ensure their needs are met immediately, supports growth.
I also love observing the incredible imagination of our young children. The games and play experiences they create, and the use of resources and space, is amazing (and delightful) to watch. Sometimes when adults intervene during play, this imagination gets squashed or when we try too hard to guide the play, we discredit the wonderful ideas children come up with all on their own.
Children in early childhood settings have the lovely opportunity to form friendships early and they continue to blossom over time however there are times when it is not all rosy. Do not be concerned if your child “changes” friends often or decides that they no longer “like” one of their peers. This is common as children are finding their way in the world and gaining more confidence to share their opinions. In my experience, children under the age of 5, find their way back to each other and as Educators, we see it as our responsibility to nurture a sense of empathy and kindness in the hope this lasts a lifetime.