Some of us can still fondly remember long summer days and recess hours spent with our closest pals, making mud pies, catching ladybugs and generally having lots of fun. As it turns out, the effects of those adolescent friendships last well into adulthood. “Being chosen [as a friend] makes a child or teen feel affirmed, and it also expands their horizon beyond the narrow world of their nuclear family,” says Dr. Jan Yager, Ph.D., author of When Friendship Hurts. “The child or teen can become friends with someone of a different race, religion, culture or socio-economic background since their siblings will most likely be very similar to them. Friendships outside of siblings expand a child or teen’s horizons and view of the world and other families besides their own.”
Anyone who’s had a relationship with an overly needy or inconsiderate person knows that being a great friend to others has become a bit of a lost art. Teach your kids now how to treat others well, and you won’t ever have to worry about them being alone later. “Kids can learn to model great friendships when they are given the tools for experiencing empathy,” says parenting expert Natalie Blais. “The power of empathy has a deep and lasting impression on kids because they are not yet clouded with disappointment like adults are. Kids are constantly filled with wonder when it comes to emotion, and empathy is an experience kids must learn to master.”
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