Friends and Friendships
Most parents recognize how important and how rewarding friendships are in the lives of children. A blueprint of how children make friends and what friendships are like at different ages will enable parents to help children through rough spots.
Real Life Stories
Jerry, aged 11, enjoys playing chess, collecting stamps and working on his computer, Most of the boys in his neighborhood play soccer and baseball; they think Jerry is nerdy and make fun of him. Jerry's parents respect his hobbies and understand that kids have different interests. They've made arrangements for him to meet similar kids after school in chess and stamp clubs, buy they're worried that Jerry doesn't know how to handle the teasing and that his self-esteem will suffer.
Janet, 10 years old, enjoys school and does well academically. She's quite shy and has only one friend in the neighborhood. She refuses to invite any of her classmates for a play date. "I don't need any more friends; Luisa and I like to do the same things and we tell each other everything," she insists. Luisa's family is planning to move to another state, and although Janet has been invited to visit them, her parents worry that she'll be isolated and lonely.
Friendships through the ages
Although infants respond to each other, social play becomes prominent during the second year. Two and 3-year-olds generally have playmates they know from the neighborhood or nursery school. During the school years, the child's circle of friends widens and increases. Compared to younger children, school aged children interact more with each other and participate more in social activities, most of which are task-oriented, such as working in teams and on projects together. Because they can now communicate better and they are able to understand another person's point of view, cooperation and sharing increase, while aggression and fighting decrease. Between 10 and 14 years, children's groups become more structured and may have membership requirements and rituals. Social pressures intensify and cliques may form, often around shared interests like sports and music. At this time formal organizations such as athletic teams and scouts become more important. At about age 12, friendships are judged on the basis of understanding and sharing inner thoughts. Preadolescents and adolescents help each other with psychological problems such as fear, loneliness and sadness. By adolescence the time spent with peers is greater than the time spent with adults, including parents.
Reprinted with the permission of the NYU Child Study Center. © NYU Child Study Center.
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