The Importance of Friends
In 3rd grade, friendships among boys and girls take on greater importance. Between the ages of 8 and 9, children start acquiring new emotional and cognitive skills and see their peers in a different light. Child development experts agree that close friendships can be good for children for a number of reasons. They can provide shelter and protection from traumatic childhood experiences, teasing and rejection among them. They can help boys and girls navigate their way through the social minefields that exist at school.
Of course, not every child ends up with a best buddy, and the number of friends your child has depends on his or her temperament. Some children are more suited to having one close friend or a small circle of chums, while others prefer the company of many.
Boy Versus Girl Friends
On the surface, girls seem more consumed with friendship. They want a group in which they feel comfortable, and some actively seek it out. For boys, the approach is different. Friendships are more action-oriented with boys. says Mary Pat McCartney, elementary-level vice president of the American School Counselors Association. "Girls take things personally. With boys it's more cut and dried. For example, two boys might decide they want to shoot hoops together and bingo, they're friends."
When Pals Feud
When conflicts arise — and they will — it can be hard to watch your child sort through them. Keep in mind that getting their feelings hurt and making mistakes is all part of the learning process. At home, parents can help by reiterating what it means to be a friend. "Talk to your children about friendship," recommends Kerrie Laguna, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania. "When problems arise, give them strategies that worked for you. They'll eventually draw on the resources you've given them."
In the end, experts note that the connection between two people almost always triumphs over the inevitable conflicts. Think of the countless adult friendships that began in elementary school. Sometimes the relationships that are solidified early on can last the longest!
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