Dr. Lori Meyer and I continue our conversation about fostering friendships…using each finger of our hand, to remind us of the importance of promoting and supporting friendships.
We started with a focus on the “thumb” and how it is important that we “tell and share”, with others, about the critical role friendships play in our lives.
In this post, we talk about the power of the index finger…not for pointing and assigning blame, but rather, the power of pointing us in the direction of intentionally teaching friendship skills.
Unfortunately…some may think intentionally teaching “soft skills”, like friendship, is not our job or not a priority. After all, weren’t we trained to teach children how to write their name, count objects, and pass future tests?
But…it IS our job to teach about friendships…and it IS a priority…particularly when working with children who may struggle forming friendship skills.
In order to intentionally teach friendship skills, we need to start by knowing WHAT to teach. So, before going any further, let’s take a minute and think about friendship skills.
What would you say are examples of friendship skills? Does this seem like a daunting question?
Interesting, it wasn’t hard for a group of preschoolers to answer, when the other day, their teacher asked, “What makes a friend special?” Without hesitation, the children said, “He is FUNNY!”
In addition to having the attribute of humor, here are a few other skills that we see as critical to forming and maintaining meaningful friendships:
- Sharing toys and materials
- Taking turns
- Suggesting play roles and ideas
- Participating in cooperative play
- Being able to take the perspective of others
One easy way, to be more intentional, is to think about all the opportunities children have to engage with peers across the daily routine. As you examine your schedule, remember that “academic” times also can be “social” times.
For example, if you use cooperative learning groups, when children are closely investigating worms, they will not only be learning important science concepts, but also have multiple opportunities to interact with peers!
After examining your daily schedule, you may realize how many or how few opportunities children have to practice skills essential to friendship development.
This may point you in the direction of arranging the environment in new ways or increasing the number of opportunities for social interactions, especially for children who need more practice.
When identifying opportunities to intentionally teach friendship skills, ask yourself:
- Which children need more help with friendship skills?
- Which friendship skills are children currently learning and strengthening?
- Where you will be during the time when children are practicing friendship skills?
- How can the environment be arranged to help promote children’s effective use of friendship skills to promote success when you can’t be “right there”?
Another way to be more intentional is to consider the different types of support children may need from adults, other peers, or the environment, in order to learn and successfully use friendship skills.
Using these strategies, fosters friendships and creates a greater sense of belonging by all. Their use may also reduce bullying and create bonds that will serve children across their lifespan.
Given that this week’s “finger,” points us in the direction of intentionally teaching skills children need to form and maintain close friendships with peers, what actions will you take? Here are a few ideas:
- Share this post with others (see social share icons at the bottom of this post/email).
- Download all of our friendship FACT printables by clicking here.
- Read a new book about supporting friendships and acceptance of differences.
Other posts in this series:
Ring finger: Reinforce friendships between children