Essential Friendship Skills for Kids

Teaching friendship skills is a big part of most school counselors’ jobs. We focus on kindness, inclusion, active listening, and so much more. In my small group counseling, I focus on 8 essential topics to teach kids friendship skills. Keep reading to see what essential skills I focus on with students in group!

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Want to teach kids friendship skills? Check out these essential friendship skills and ideas for activities to use with your students or kids!

Teach Kids Friendship Skills: 8 Essential Skills All Kids Need

Conversation Skills

Friends talk to each other, right? Conversation skills are a must for kids! Here are a few things I practice with students in classroom guidance and small group counseling sessions:

  • starting a conversation (asking questions, noticing something about the person)
  • maintaining a conversation (asking for more details, sharing a personal experience)
  • joining a conversation (waiting for a break in the conversation)
  • using a social filter (think it or say it?)
  • ending a conversation
Teach kids friendship skills with these 8 essential friendship skills for kids! These activities are perfect for small group counseling or at home play! Use a social filter

Listening Skills

Friends want to know that we’re listening to them! To teach kids about listening skills, we cover these strategies:

  • focus on what the other person is saying
  • let go of your own thoughts
  • don’t plan what you’re going to say when the other person is done talking

To do this, we play games to help students practice. Counselor Says (like Simon Says) is great for focusing on details. We also do an activity in which one student gives directions for a directed drawing activity and a partner has to hone in on details and follow the directions. It’s great for building listening skills!

Playing Fair

Playing together is only fun if everyone is playing fair! To practice this skill, I like to use familiar board games to start. Just following the rules of familiar games is an easy first step. We review all of the rules and talk about how we know when the game ends (more on this later). If anyone struggles to follow the rules, we just take a quick break to review the rules in a non-accusatory way.

Teach kids friendship skills with these 8 essential friendship skills for kids! These activities are perfect for small group counseling or at home play!

Then, I use a simple game board and pieces. I give students fill-in-the-blank rules. The students work together to create rules for the game. Then, they learn the rules, agree to the rules, and follow the rules while they play their own game. Involving them in the rule-making creates investment in the process and makes it easier for some students to remember the rules!

Want to take it to the next level? Use those familiar games, but change a rule or two. It can be as simple as playing Candy Land and saying when you draw a blue card, move to a yellow space. This really makes players think about the rules throughout the whole game!

Being a Good Winner and Loser

Playing games together is great, unless someone is a sore loser or ungracious winner! To practice these skills we talk about these things:

  • it’s okay to feel happy when you win!
  • say something like, “Good game,” or “That was fun to play.”
  • don’t boast or gloat (statements like, “I beat you!” or “I’m better than you!”)
  • don’t make excuses (statements like, “You’ve played this more than me – of course you won!” or “You cheated!”)
  • avoid name-calling
  • finish the game, even if you can already tell you’re going to lose
  • you can have fun, even if you don’t win!
  • know that you can’t win every single time
  • remember: it’s a game. The results don’t define you.
Teach kids friendship skills with these 8 essential friendship skills for kids! These activities are perfect for small group counseling or at home play! Teach kids to get a good winner and loser when they play games with others.

So how do students get better at this? Practice! Play games one-on-one. Take breaks to talk about sore loser or ungracious winner actions. Say how it feels when the student does one of those things. Model the skills. Then, practice in small group so students can try out their new skills with peers. It’s okay to stop the game for a moment to process what’s happening; that’s how we learn!

Expressing Feelings and Needs

Friends let each other know how they feel and what they need! We practice making I statements and adding what we’d like. “I feel upset, and I really need to talk it out right now,” or “I’m feeling sad right now. I need some alone time.” Communicating these feelings and needs helps everyone feel in the loop and know exactly how to respond.

Teach kids friendship skills with these 8 essential friendship skills for kids! These activities are perfect for small group counseling or at home play! Teach kids to express their feelings using I statements and share their needs with others in this counseling activity.

Accepting Others

Friends don’t have to be just alike! We can accept our friends for who they are. I love using the book, All Are Welcome Here (affiliate link to Amazon) to illustrate how we can accept and appreciate everyone’s unique qualities and backgrounds. In my Sea of Friends small group, we make a fish with scales decorated by each group member to show our unique qualities and interests. It’s always a big hit!

Teach kids friendship skills with these 8 essential friendship skills for kids! These activities are perfect for small group counseling or at home play!

Conflict Resolution

Friends are going to have conflicts – it’s totally natural! True conflict resolution skills are so much more than just working out a problem! I wrote a whole post about essential foundational skills that kids need to successfully resolve conflicts. To resolve conflicts successfully with friends, kids need to know how to use assertive communication to share how they’re feeling. They need to know how to actively listen to their peers and see things from their friends’ points of view. And they need to have resolution as the end goal instead of just personal gain!

Teach kids friendship skills with these 8 essential friendship skills for kids! These activities are perfect for small group counseling or at home play!

Feeling & Showing Concern for Others

What’s friendship without empathy? Kids need to develop a true caring and understanding about how others are feeling and be able to show their friends that they see and feel for them. We talk about what empathy is and isn’t and work on building empathy skills with these Everyday Empathy conversation starters:

Teach kids friendship skills with these 8 essential friendship skills for kids! These activities are perfect for small group counseling or at home play! Everyday empathy - build empathy with these counseling activities.

What about you?

What other skills do you focus on when you teach kids friendship skills? Leave them in the comments below!


Activities from this Post:

Friendship Social Skills Group Counseling Curriculum

Social Filter Activities

Friendship Centers

Teach kids friendship skills with these 8 essential friendship skills for kids! These activities are perfect for small group counseling or at home play!
What friendship skills do you want your kids to know? How do you teach kids friendship skills? These 8 essential friendship skills can be taught individually, in small group counseling, and at home! Keep reading to find friendship activities, friendship lessons, friendship group counseling ideas and more to help your kids build social skills for life! -Counselor Keri
What friendship skills do you want your kids to know? How do you teach kids friendship skills? These 8 essential friendship skills can be taught individually, in small group counseling, and at home! Keep reading to find friendship activities, friendship lessons, friendship group counseling ideas and more to help your kids build social skills for life! -Counselor Keri

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