How to Be a True Friend

Wondering how to help your daughter be a true friend?

Healthy, strong friendships are a vital part of your child’s development. Not only do good friends help your daughter look forward to school and fun, but research shows that it is so much more than that. Studies have found that children who lack for friendships suffer from emotional and mental challenges later in life. Studies also show that friendships are where kids explore and improve their social skills, problem solving skills and communication skills.

We want our daughters to have healthy relationships and be successful in life and part of that is navigating friendships at a young age, learning skills that will help her into her teenage years and beyond. To help your daughter make friends and avoid drama-filled friendships we’ve put together these top 5 tips on how to be a true friend.

True Friends Watch their Words

Great friends use their words to build each other up, to deepen their friendships and support one another. Here are two practical ways young girls can become better friends by becoming better communicators:

  • Get Great at Conversation

    Being good at carrying on a conversation can start at a young age. Teach your daughter that questions and being genuinely interested in the other person is the start of every great conversation. Whether she wants to make new friends at a new school or she has a sleepover with a longtime best friend, keeping a conversation going is a great skill to practice. Use the dinner table as a time to practice asking questions and practice back-and-forth conversations. Before she goes somewhere new help her think up questions she could ask to invite shy people into the conversation or to get to know someone brand new.

  • Speak Before You Think

Have you ever said something because you knew it would make everyone laugh — even if it might not have been true or very kind? Have you ever gotten mad and spoke angry words without stopping to think? When we let words roll out of our mouths without putting much thought into what we are saying we aren’t being a very good friend. Our words can hurt feelings, be thoughtless or hurt our friendships. Practice pausing before you think, especially if you are mad, and ask yourself if what you are about to say is true or kind or helpful. Words can build a person up or tear them down — our words matter! So the next time you find yourself quick to crack a joke, get upset or respond without thinking, press pause and think about what you want to say first.

True Friends Work Through Conflict

  • What to Do When you Hurt a Friends Feelings

Teach your daughter that sometimes we can hurt a friends feelings — even if we didn’t mean to. When our intentions (what we intended, or planned or meant in our mind when we were speaking) are good, they can still be misunderstood by your friend. If feelings get hurt in a friendship, even if the intentions were good, it’s important to teach our daughters to value their friends feelings and make things right. Taking your friends feelings seriously, trying to understand their point of view and how they are feeling is an important step to building empathy and stronger friendships. Recognizing hurt feelings rather than ignoring them or acting like they don’t matter helps your best friend feel valued and heard and loved.

  • Be Quick to Apologize and Forgive

Letting hurt feelings simmer or go on ignored is a quick way to end a friendship. Teach your daughter the importance of being quick to forgive and quick to apologize. When there is a conflict in a friendship big feelings can take root. Even if the girls aren’t fighting anymore there can still be lingering feelings of hurt and anger that leave the conflict hidden just under the surface. When our daughters practice the art of saying “I’m sorry,” and practice forgiving others then we are helping them to move on from conflict in a much healthier and more healing way.

True Friends are Good Listeners

  • Don’t Be an Interrupter

Nobody likes an interrupter and guess what, our daughters might not even realize they’ve picked up this bad habit! If your daughter consistently interrupts conversations at home then it’s a good guess that she’s doing the same thing in conversations with friends. Gently point out to her that interrupting is not what a good friend or a good listener would do. When we interrupt it tells our friend that we don’t really care what they have to say and that we think our ideas are more important. Good friends are good listeners, so don’t just wait for your turn to speak and don’t interrupt.

  • Be an Active Listener

Girls can learn how to be active listeners at young ages and it’s a skill that will bless their friendships for life. Practice or role play at home actively listening to the other person, without any thought of what you’ll say and without letting your mind wander. Just practice hearing, making eye contact and asking questions to understand the other person better or to learn more about what they are talking about. It’s especially great to practice active listening with siblings, let them talk about a topic they are excited about and have the other sibling practice actively listening.

True Friends Cheer Each Other On

  • Encourage Them

Everyone can use a cheerleader in their life! Good friends cheer each other on and support one another with their words and actions. Model being an encouraging friend in your family and teach your children to be one another’s biggest cheerleader at home and at school. Help your daughter encourage her friend in her interests, in trying new things and in celebrating their successes. Sometimes this can feel hard — if your daughters friend makes the soccer team and she doesn’t, for example — but teach her to look beyond herself and find ways to be happy for her friends and their success.

  • Remember the Little Things and Show them You Care

Remembering birthdays, special days or big events in the lives of our friends shows that we really care. Being there for them when they are experiencing something hard or sad and celebrating with them when they experience a win is a big part of being a true friend. Your daughter can practice by writing a note to her friend, by showing up to her gymnastics meet to cheer her on and by so many other gestures that show she’ll always be there for her friend.

True Friends are Loyal

  • Never Participate in Gossip (about anyone)

  • Gossip is like poison to a friendship. Teach your daughter that not only should she never spread gossip (even if it’s true) about her friend, but that she should never listen to gossip either! Give your daughter some phrases she can practice to turn the conversation away from gossip if it comes up in conversation. Remind her that even if it’s not her friend they are talking about, that person is someone’s best friend and she can be a loyal friend to everyone by not spreading or listening to gossip.