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Friendship Boundaries and Contingencies

    By Boys Town Contributor

Boys Town, Boys Town Parenting, Early Childhood, Friend, Parenting Resources, Parenting Skills, Toddler

When your child comes home from school and tells you that a friend refused to share a snack at the lunch table and that they are no longer friends with the other child, what do you say to them?

It's an important question because it's a critical teaching opportunity.

Helping your children deal with conflicts in friendships is an important part of their development. It involves teaching the give and take in conflict resolution, never an easy task at any age, but an important life skill, nonetheless.

Friendship Isn't Conditional on Any One Thing

Children make friends naturally. Shy kids often gravitate towards other shy kids. Outgoing kids seem to make friends wherever they go. Sometimes, shy and outgoing mix well because of a shared interest.

It is important to stress to your child the qualities that make up a long-lasting friendship. These qualities can help your child navigate the difficult decisions sometimes required for maintaining a friendship or, perhaps, make the difficult decision to move on from a friend a little easier:

  • Trust
  • Loyalty
  • Compassion
  • Honesty
  • Independence and boundaries
  • Cooperation, and that all of the above are two-way streets between friends

When your child tells you that another child refused to share, so, therefore, they are “not friends anymore," first, assess the situation to make sure nothing serious happened. If not, then remind your child of the reasons they established the friendship in the first place and the value that friendship brings to their life.

Talk About Boundaries

Let them know that another child isn't required to behave in a way that your child insists. They don't have to invite you to a party or share a snack at the lunch table. Talk to your child about their own personal boundaries. Ask them how the situation made them feel.

You may discover that there may be good reasons to let the friendship go if you discern a pattern of behavior that's detrimental to your child. The unshared snack event may be the tip of the iceberg in terms of your child's feelings about their friend. Or it may simply be that one or both of them were having a bad day and certainly not a good reason to end a friendship.

Either way, talking about the situation, rather than simply dismissing it, will give you valuable insights into your child's psyche and help you help your child grow into a mature, well-rounded adult.


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