The importance of quality friendships in childhood

Friendship is a concept that is familiar to most. While the dictionary defines friendship as ‘a state of mutual trust and support between allied nations’, the beloved character Winnie the Pooh sums up friendship in a beautiful way, ‘If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.’ The ability to build and maintain strong relationships is a critical life skill; humanity depends on true friendships.

Humans usually gravitate to those who are similar to themselves, in background, appearance, personality, or who share interests. For most, the first opportunity to build relationships with peers is at school. As a time where a child’s world gets bigger, friendships, which are a positive force on development, become more important.

The importance of friendship and its power to positively impact health, wellbeing and development is recognised globally. On the 30th July 2019, World Friendship Day or International Day of Friendship Day, as some know it, will be celebrated amongst many communities. The day was declared an official celebration by the General Assembly of United Nations in 2011 and aims to bring those of different backgrounds together.

School-age friendships are especially important as they develop important life skills, such as communication, independence, empathy and conflict resolution. Fostering strong relationships with peers is also critical for emotional wellbeing, especially in an age where bullying is showing no signs of slowing down.

report released in late 2018 by the Department for Education, analysed information given by 10-15-year olds via the Crime Survey for England and Wales. It presented the findings that the incidence of bullying remains stable. For the past three years, it’s been reported that 1 in 6 school age children are bullied in a way that’s made them feel frightened or upset. Rather shockingly, 32% of those bullied, experience it at least once a week.

Bullying poses a threat towards young people and can have negative short and long-term consequences for the victim and the bully. In the short term, these effects can manifest in many ways, from sleep disturbance to anxiety and depression, poor school performance and even higher risk of illness. Without intervention, damages to mental, physical and social wellbeing can continue into the long term.

As well as professional treatment and support for bullied individuals, strong friendships can actually buffer some of the negative consequences. Studies have shown that high levels of support from friends can protect against poor academic achievement and promote good mental health.

When it comes to the quality versus quantity debate, it’s the quality of time spent together that proves to be more important in establishing a friendship, rather than the quantity. The notion that a huge circle of friends isn’t necessary, is supported by a recent study that found best friend quality to be a predictor of happiness and possess the ability to buffer negative effects of conflicts.

Strong friendships are important for health and wellbeing, for children and adults alike. It’s important for parents to encourage the development and maintenance of friendships, and the summer holidays provide a fantastic opportunity for children and their best friends to spend quality time together. This doesn’t have to be costly or have parents driving up and down the country. Children’s bedroom specialists, Room to Grow, regularly blog about low cost and at home activities, be it playing in the garden, visiting one of the thousands of attractions around the UK or exploring the local countryside.

– ENDS –

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