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Positive Parenting: The science of making friends

MADISON (WKOW) — It’s natural to want to be liked and have many friends but is there a science to making friends?

Whether it’s in on the field, in the classroom, or on the playground, have you ever wondered what makes kids popular? An Australian research team looked at 20 studies, which included more than two thousand kids ages two to ten from across the world. They found that school-aged children who were able to identify what other people want, think, and feel are more popular among peers. They also found that these kids were better able to keep these friendships as they grew older.

Being able to understand what others are thinking and feeling helps with social interactions and complex situations. Parents, talk to your kids about social situations, especially why people do what they do. For example, when a kid insults others, he may be feeling insecure. Draw their attention to nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions. This can help kids build healthy, positive friendships with their peers.

The study found the link between empathy and being popular was stronger for girls than boys implying gender differences in friendships. For example, girls were better at expressing care, concern, and affection and managing conflict than boys.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

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