NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Finding friends can be hard for kids to do these days. But recent surveys suggest that children who have best friends are healthier mentally.
In a series of polls, parents of children who have best friends reported that their kids were less stressed and less likely to be teased or bullied, CBS2’s Elise Finch reported.
“When you have a best friend and you can express emotions … it allows you to have a release and a connection to another human being,” said parenting expert Tammy Gold.
Gold said the rewards of having a best friend are great, but parents have to teach their children how to be good friends.
Gold suggested rewarding them when they share, show kindness and are considerate of others. She also suggests consequences when they’re not, like taking away toys and electronics or making them apologize if they offend or hurt someone.
“We try to tell him to be kind and to be respectful,” said Nafeeza Bento, a mother from Bloomfield, New Jersey.
Other parents said they teach their kids to be patient and understanding, to share and to live by the golden rule.
“It’s a balancing act for a parent, but I think if you push the child in the direction that you want, then they can develop those skills,” said dad Mark Bento.
Even though there appear to be numerous benefits to having a best friend, parenting experts say if your child does not have one, it isn’t necessarily cause for concern.
“If someone’s shy and quiet and they don’t have friends, it needs to know that it’s OK,” Gold said. “If they’re happy, you should support them and praise them for being alone. We don’t want to force them to change their personality at all.”
Gold said when it comes to your child and their friends, checking in with them frequently and taking their “emotional temperature” will let you know what actions, if any, you need to take.
Research also reveals that online activity weakens children’s social skills. It also leads to larger numbers of shallow relationships.