World Friendship Day is just around the corner, and to celebrate, here’s a look at the five special stages of your little one’s friendship development.
Psychologist Robert Selman posits that there are five stages in the evolution of your child’s relationship skills:
LEVEL 0 – ‘Momentary Playmates’ (age three to seven years)
At this point, your young one may play alongside a peer, and engage in a game, but only if it looks like a good time is to be had. Ultimately, it’s a self-centred approach to friendships, but completely normal as learning to view from others’ perspectives is a skill that comes gradually.
LEVEL 1 – ‘One-Way Assistance’ (age four to nine years)
Now, the concept of friendship in your child’s mind moves beyond the current game, but still focuses on the self—‘friends’ are also those who share things, offer gifts, etc. Your tot has yet to examine what makes them a friend.
LEVEL 2 – ‘Two-Way, Fair Weather Cooperation’ (age six to 12 years)
Reciprocity is the theme of this phase. Here, friendship is defined in terms of equal treatment: if I share the use of my scooter with you, you should share the use of something, too. In this way, the notion of friendship is rigid and conditional, but it’s important as it lays the groundwork for establishing fair expectations in relationships.
LEVEL 3 – ‘Intimate, Mutually Shared Relationships’ (age 11 to 15 years)
Now, friendship becomes collaborative; its ‘ projects’ including problem-solving life’s mundane problems, as well as the more pressing dilemmas. Turbulence comes in where a friend may wish to spend time with another, and this can be taken quite personally.
LEVEL 4 – ‘Mature Friendship’ (approximately age 12 years and up)
The ability to see things from a friend’s viewpoint is cultivated at this point, and your child learns to understand and even value the differences between themselves and their friends. In this way, the friendship can also survive the addition of separate social circles.
The primary focus in helping your child to develop friendships is to help them determine whether those they spend time with make them feel happy, or if encounters take something from them. This evaluation can lead your child to find friends who will respect and value them, and add positivity to their lives. Also, it’s important that your child understands what it means for them to be a good friend. Help them develop the keystone of empathy, learn the art of good listening, foster a readiness to help, and understand the importance of taking turns and sharing.