One of the most important things in the world for a child is to have friends. In childhood, friends are a source of fun, learning, and support. Some friendships, however, can be dangerous and destructive. Does your child know how to tell the difference between a friend and a “frenemy?”

As the new school year approaches, try this simple exercise with your child. Better yet, invite one or two of your child’s closest (and most parent-approved) friends to join in this thinking exercise on “What is a friend?”

Tell the kids that you want to play a brainstorming game about friendship.

Allow two minutes for each person to write down as many positive qualities that they look for in a friend as possible.

If this activity is being done with just one child at a time, ask him to read his list aloud and talk briefly about why each quality is important. You may also challenge your child to rank the top five or top ten qualities and talk about the rankings.

If more than one child is participating in the activity, ask each one to take turns reading their list to the group. Instruct all of the kids to circle any of the items on their list that are read aloud by someone else. Friendship qualities that appear on three or more kids’ lists can be starred. Continue until everyone has had a chance to read their list aloud. Encourage the kids to talk about the friendship qualities that they listed in common and why they each consider these qualities to be so important.

Next, challenge the kids to think about things they would want to avoid in a friend.

For example, if a friend was always nice “to their face” but talked about them behind their backs, would they want to hold on to that person as a friend? Why or why not?

This time, when the lists are completed, encourage the kids to call out their answers while you make a list on a large sheet of paper for all to see. Even if you are only doing this exercise with one child at a time, seeing the list posted on paper makes a lasting impression.

Once the two lists are done, draw some comparisons between them. Emphasize that kids have the power to pursue friends that possess positive qualities and to avoid close relationships with persons who exhibit many of the qualities on the “avoid” list. Be careful to specify that kids should not behave unkindly toward anyone, but rather that when choosing friends, they should aim for getting to know kids with positive, desirable qualities.


An important follow-up question is to challenge kids to think about why people sometimes make friends with the “wrong” people. Allow for discussion and encourage the kids to talk about things like peer pressure, fitting in, and intimidation.


It can be very helpful for kids to hear that their peers have the same anxieties and insecurities about making and keeping friends as they do. While having friends occupies much of children’s time, rarely do they dedicate moments to considering making good friend choices. This exercise gives kids a fun and memorable opportunity to think about what they want—and want to avoid—in a friend.


For additional activities that help kids think about positive friendships and avoid bullying relationships, please check out How to Be Angry: An Assertive Anger Expression Group Guide for Kids and Teens and Friendship & Other Weapons: Group Activities to Help Young Girls Cope with Bullying.



This article was originally posted on MomItForward.