Frank Schofield, superintendent, Logan City School District

Much of our happiness and success in life is influenced by the quality of our relationships with others. A child’s ability to build positive relationships affects their happiness at home, their success in school, and their long-term professional opportunities.

While children cannot be expected to be friends with everyone they have to work with, and many children will make friends and learn how to cooperate with their peers naturally, there are many things parents can do at home to help. The following suggestions come from the Young Citizens Initiative, a British organization dedicated to empowering young people to become active, engaged citizens. Some of their ideas include the following:

Modeling appropriate behavior.

During the early years of child development, children learn social skills by copying the adults they see around them. It is therefore important for adults to model the behavior they would like to see in their child and be aware of their reactions to everyday social situations. Consider what your child is learning through your own relationships and interactions with others, and try to demonstrate the attitudes and behaviors that nurture lasting friendships.

Encouraging positivity.

Most people tend to prefer the company of positive people as positivity, like negativity, is contagious. Positive people who feel good about themselves generally make others feel good, too.

You can encourage your child to be positive by discussing problems and talking about how to proactively turn a situation around. Teach your child that having a positive attitude is a choice, and positive self-talk and choosing to not focus on negative feelings are key steps to remaining positive, despite the challenging days we all face.

Starting conversations.

Some children struggle to make friends because they don’t have the confidence or communication skills to take the first step. You could help them by role playing opening sentences to help your child get the conversation started (i.e. ‘Did you do anything nice this weekend? I went swimming.).

Giving compliments can also help children to start conversations and build a sense of rapport. Children should understand that compliments should be specific and sincere, and that they can be a bridge to starting a positive conversation with someone new.

Encouraging good manners.

The importance of good manners in developing good relationships is often overlooked. It is important to model and teach when to say “please” and “thank you,” and how to greet adults and other children in different situations.

This might also include learning how to join a conversation politely, without interrupting. Entering a conversation that has already started is a difficult skill to learn, so children may need to practice listening to discussions, waiting for a pause, and then adding something relevant to the conversation.

These are only a few of the strategies children need to build the positive relationships that will promote their personal health and happiness. As parents, model and practice these skills in the home, and your children will be better prepared to succeed throughout their lives.