Learning how to make a good friend — and be a good friend — isn’t something kids just know to do on their own. It’s a skill they need to learn, and work on, over the years. Here are some ways to help your child improve his friendship skills.

  1. Talk about what makes a good friend

    Don’t assume your child knows what being a good friend means. Talk with him about the importance of taking turns, sharing, helping, and showing an interest in others. Point out how doing these things will help his friends and classmates feel good and want to spend time with him. If you see examples of other people doing these things, point them out to your child. “See how that girl let her friend have a turn with the jump rope? That’s a nice thing to do for a friend.”

  2. Teach your child what being a bad friend means

    Tell him not to brag, put others down, be a sore loser, or hog conversations. If you hear him doing any of these things, gently remind him that a good friend doesn’t do that. Also ask your child how he thinks his buddy/playmate felt when he wasn’t being a good friend. “How do you think that made Sarah feel? Does it look like she’s happy?” It’s important for kids to understand the power they have on others — this is a good way for yours to start.

  3. Praise your child when he’s being a good friend

    When you see your child being kind to another kid, praise him for it. “That was nice of you to give Joe another turn after he dropped the ball. That’s being a good friend.” Or “When Tanya fell and got hurt, you helped her get up and asked if she was OK. You were being a really good friend.”

  4. Help your child meet other kids

    The more time your child spends with other kids, in and outside of school, the better he’ll be at getting along with all sorts of children — in different settings and activities. If possible, have your child play a team sport after school. Team sports do wonders to teach kids about thinking of others. They also give kids plenty of practice making good friends. Once in a while, take your child to different places where there are other children: at the playground, public pool, and library. This will give him more chances to make good friends who aren’t just at school.

  5. Role-play scenes between kids

    If your child is having trouble with another student, try role-playing with him. By playing the kid your child is having a hard time with, you’ll give him a chance to practice responding when things get tough — but in a safe setting. (You might feel silly acting out a scene between kids, but it really does help your child to practice in a safe place.) For example, if your child wants to talk with a friend who hurt his feelings, role-play a scene in which the other kid apologizes. Or try another scene in which a student continues to tease your child. Talk about what the next step should be in each situation.