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Each new friendship can make you a new person, because it opens up new doors inside of you.”~Kate DiCamillo
This back-to-school season will be like no other after over a year of disruption and uncertainty. It really will be a new beginning that brings opportunities for meeting new people, experiencing new routines, and exploring new interests - both exciting and daunting. While any new school year can come with feelings of stress and anxiety, especially for young children, this year will be a different experience filled with BIG feelings. Young children entering preschool for the first time have now spent nearly half of their lives at home with fewer opportunities to develop critical social-emotional skills. In fact, for many, this school year will be the very first social experience outside of their family unit. Whether children are heading back to school to reunite with friends or finally getting the opportunity to make new ones, children will no doubt experience the highs and lows as relationships develop, grow, and change.
Following more than a year of social distancing and online learning, the majority of US parents (72%) are worried their kids have lost valuable social skills... Specifically, parents worry that their child will have trouble in these areas: making conversation with friends (41%); meeting new people (40%); sharing (35%); staying quiet for long periods (34%); waiting their turn (31%)” *
Making new friends is so important-it can be rewarding and exciting, but it can also be scary, prickly, and intimidating. Friendship looks different for everyone - it doesn’t always mean liking the same things, having the same interests in common, or participating in the same kinds of play all the time. Young children especially may be reluctant to enter into play and build friendships when they don’t yet know what friendship is all about. Children can learn a lot from their friends - not just about others, but about themselves too. Through friendship, children are given countless opportunities to practice empathy, perspective-taking, kindness, inclusion, sharing, prosocial behavior… all while figuring out their own interests, perspectives, and ideas. Building the critical social skills children need to relate to others, understand and respect differences, learn to work and play together, and develop empathy all start from the beginning.
At Housman Institute, we understand that children learn within the context of relationships through observing and through the modeling, guidance, and responsive feedback of trusted adults. One of our favorite ways to introduce young children to feelings and emotions is through reading and storytelling. Reading together gives children the opportunity to relate to characters in a story - how they are feeling and what they are experiencing - and connect those feelings and experiences to their own. They learn to identify, understand, and express their own emotions from recognizing the feelings and experiences in the stories that are being told and in the books that are read to them. Books open a world where children can learn about the importance of having a friend and being a friend. They learn what it means to be kind, to share with others, to be compassionate, giving, understanding, inclusive, and empathetic.
Summertime is always the perfect time to share great books and stories on friendship. This summer seems especially important to build the bridge to new social worlds and to start having big conversations about meeting new friends and making new friends before the journey back to school begins.
Share this list with others, and let us know about your favorite books on friendship! Let’s read together and discover the importance of building relationships, sharing and learning from one another, and working together to help each other in our world.
At Housman Institute, we believe our role is to nurture the social, emotional, and cognitive well-being of all students and educators without bias. It is critical that every child feel recognized and validated from their earliest days—to understand that their voice matters, regardless of background or experience and is being heard. We listen to, respect and support the needs of our educators as we recognize their critical role in a child's emotional growth and development. Together we need to begin the important work to help all our children and educators, as we move toward a more equitable environment for early learning, setting the stage for the building blocks of empathy and conflict resolution, and a more equitable future for us all. To learn more about how our program works to address equity in early childhood school communities... visit here.