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Peer relationships with children

Peer relationships with children
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Children’s relationships with their peers form an integral part of their development. Not only does it help them to be happy during their childhood, it teaches them how to make friendships, work with colleagues and form partnerships as adults.

Don’t expect too much too soon

Babies and toddlers don’t necessarily take much notice of their peers, unless the other child has something they want of course. Don’t get stressed if your baby or toddler doesn’t appear to be making friends or even sharing toys with her peers. This won’t come until around the age of two or three. As well as offering you some adult company, play dates and toddler groups are a great way to introduce the idea of socialising with other children. If your child only ever sees adults, then all of a sudden is expected to get along with other kids at nursery, it’s going to come as a bit of a shock to the system.

Toddlers and pre-schoolers

Peer relationships start to become more obvious in these years. You might find that your child has a ‘best friend’ at nursery; you might notice her starting to play with rather than alongside siblings. Particularly when kids start nursery, this is often the time when children will begin to spend lots of time playing and connecting with their peers. While you should obviously supervise your children, give them a chance to sort things out between themselves. Some arguing or conflict can be good for young kids learning how to form relationships. Before removing your child from a situation or telling her what to do, wait and see how she handles it. Negotiating and a bit of give and take are definite factors in most relationships; these are valuable skills to learn.

Primary school children

Studies have shown that true friendships – that is those providing mutual affection, trust, self-worth, sensitivity and support – tend to start from around nine or 10 years old. Younger children will have friends who they play and interact with, it’s not until they mature a little more that they start to look for attributes, other than something like Star Wars being a friend.

Peer relationships with children

Teenagers

As children grow, so do their friendships. During the teenage years kids are likely to spend more time with their peers, rather than with their families. You may find that your teen has a wider range of both male and female friends with a variety of interests. While having stuff in common is still a factor, teenagers are likely to develop relationships with peers who have a similar attitude and outlook on life, rather than focussing mainly on interests.

Encouraging your child to make friends

Forming relationships with peers boosts children’s confidence, this provides social skills that will be used throughout their lives. Of course, we all want our kids to form healthy relationships with their peers and there are some things parents can do to help. Taking children to places such as the park or a birthday party, where they will meet people their own age is a great way to start. Even if they don’t strike up conversations or play games with other kids, they’ll learn how to act around their peers, building the confidence to join in will come, eventually. Childhood friendships can be notoriously fickle, it’s often tempting to jump in and sort things out for your child. However, doing so won’t help you son or daughter learn from the experience. By all means guide them through it and allow them the freedom to deal with difficulties between them.

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About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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