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June 26, 2017

3 Ways to Help Your Children Become Best Friends

Henry is 3 years and 3 months older than Nora, to the day. And, they are each other's best friends. When school started last fall they both spent significant amounts of time mourning the change in their relationship. And, now with summer vacation starting they are both spending significant amounts of time celebrating their new found togetherness. 

These two compliment each other in every way. Nora is the yin to Henry's yang. Where he is reserved, she is bold. Where he is cautious, she is free. When she is impulsive, he is calculating. Where Henry leads, Nora follows. Where Nora leads, Henry follows. 

Siblings can be good friends, they can even be best friends. Here are 3 ways to help your children become best friends.

Now, it is pure luck that their personalities mesh so well together. That is just who they were when they were born. These two were made from each other through and through. But, I do think there have been a few things we have tried to do that has encouraged and nurtured their ultimate friendship. 

3 Ways to Help Your Children Become Best Friends

Giving them a close friendship for life has been important to me. I want them to respect, love, and want each other's presence in their lives forever. And, that process has started young. Here are some things that we have very consciously done that supports their relationship.

Open Ended Toys 

In the words of Maria Montessori, "Play is the work of the child." It is through play that children explore their surroundings, their social dynamics, and learn. If you want your children to become good friends, they have to play together. This play will fuel their bond and strengthen their friendship.

But, if you want you want your children to play together, they have to have something to play with. This is where open ended toys come in. If you only have toys with specific aims meant for specific ages, they aren't going to find those opportunities to be together. If something is too frustrating for the younger child, or not engaging to an older one, they won't find each other in play. 

Not so with open ended toys! A basket of blocks, some toy animals, art supplies, or a dollhouse can ensure that they all have their role. While they may not be playing the same game at the same time, or playing with the same level of detail, they can both adapt their play to their needs while being together. No matter where they are in their development, they can bring their worlds together and find a rhythm.

Give Them Space 

You have to give them space -- in two ways. One, you need to prepare the environment for play, love and connection. Here, I specifically mean the physical environment. As Maria Montessori explained, "the environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences." You must make sure your home is prepared for your children, so they have the space they need to concentrate, to connect, to play. 

But, YOU, must also give them space. You need to step back and let their relationship happen. You cannot be their cruise director, instructing their every move. As parents, we need to step back and allow them to make connection, find their common interests, and develop a bond without our interference. 

Respect Their Relationship 

Related to giving them space, you need to respect that they have their own relationship. Just like you have a relationship with each of them, your friends, and your spouse/significant other, they have a relationship with it's own dynamics outside of you. They are going to have disagreements, they are going to have times where they drift apart, and they are going to have other relationships that compete with their own. And, they have to navigate these challenges. 

They have to figure out what works for them. They have set the rules for their relationship, outside of you. If you are always interfering, they won't be able to form that deep trust and security that comes from those difficult experiences. This isn't to say you should never step in. Children are still learning how to be safe and think about others. But, it does mean, you need to give them time to work through their conflicts, to come up with their own solutions, and be alright with the resolution that works best for them. 

Siblings can be good friends, they can even be best friends. Here are 3 ways to help your children become best friends.

Are your children good friends? How have you helped cultivate their relationship? 


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Katie said…
This is a great post and a goal I have been targeting since day 1! Can you speak more to the early days of their relationship? Mine are 3 years 6 weeks apart, currently 3:11 and 9 months in age. I find myself frequently worrying that I'm not doing a great job of helping them connect. Especially because play is difficult when my 3 year old is "focusing" and my 9 month old is "destroying"
Nicole @ The Kavanaugh Report
That is really hard! I think in those days Henry took more of a care taker role. He was helping me, help Nora. As far as play goes, it was important for me to give them some time to play together, but also important for me to protect Henry's work so that he still had times where he could deeply concentrate without a curious baby.