Social / Emotional

Navigating Friendships and Feelings

In elementary school, friendships become more complex than just playing in the sandbox. Your kid is probably going to start developing bigger feelings about their social worlds—from anxiety about friendships to empathy for their pals to a strong sense of “right and wrong.”

These years are all about growing into themselves. They’re making friendships separate from you, recognizing bigger and more complex feelings, and starting to have a keener sense of “right and wrong” than they used to. And yet they’re still babies: They’ll want your approval and support, your attention, and (hopefully) still your snuggles.

Here are some things that will probably happen in these early elementary years:


They’re developing a deeper awareness of feelings. You’ll probably start to see more hurt feelings, as well as more awareness of how others are feeling. They might start experiencing jealousy or “FOMO” (“fear of missing out”) when they perceive their friends are spending time with other people, and—especially at the older end of this stage—they’ll start understanding other points of view, too.


You’ll see them focusing on right and wrong. They’re starting to develop their own moral compass. You might hear about classmates who don’t follow the rules. They’re starting to recognize the benefits of sharing and playing collaboratively. And while they’re probably very interested in behaving “well,” they might not always be able to manage it—and you might see them trying to skirt the rules to get the outcome they want.


They’ll start to experience self-consciousness or embarrassment. You might start to see your child think more about what other people think of them, especially their peers. They’ll start wanting to act like their friends—for better and for worse. This is a great time to consider how you talk about your child and yourself in front of them, and to look for opportunities to send clear and frequent positive messages that encourage their self-esteem.

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