The Power of Friendships

International Day of Friendship originally was an idea from Hallmark cards back in the 1930’s as a money making effort for sending more cards. But the idea of a day to honour friendships was soon adopted to reserve a day for celebrating friendships, especially in Asia. With the growing popularity of social media throughout the world, there has been an increase in celebrating this day (online). 

Healthy friendships are really something to celebrate, because the feeling of being accepted and having friends is essential to our mental health and well being. Having friends is one of the most significant factors for life quality and enjoyment. It is seen as a protective factor throughout your development. 

There are long-term consequences for children and adolescents who do not establish positive peer relations. Having friends is associated with autonomy, social competence, higher sense of self-worth, reduced depression, less delinquent and risky behaviors, higher performance and better school adjustment. Children and adolescents have to make friends in a difficult, social environment where they need to gain peer acceptance, learn how to initiate and maintain friendships. More often than adult friendships, children and adolescents have to deal with frequent rebuffs, breaking up of friendships and bullying. Children and adolescents who are being victimized by their peers, face a higher risk for mental and physical health outcomes. Research has shown that not all victims of bullying experience maladjustment and that friendships can offer an important buffer. Youth exhibit greater recovery in the face of stress when they have a best friend who is present. So having at least one friendship, already is a buffer. 

There are changes in friendship qualities over the years. Friends in early childhood mainly provide

companionship and fun but adolescent friendships also start fulfilling other needs for trust, intimacy, attachment, and emotional support.
As adults, whether you are a child’s caregiver or supporting in any other way, we can help them with investing in positive peer relations in every part of their development by having attention for:

  • Regulating their emotions
  • Understanding other people’s emotions and perspectives
  • Showing sympathy
  • Social skills, such as finding similar interests, sharing, listening, cooperation and compromise
  • Apologizing and making amends
  • Be understanding and forgiving of other people’s mistakes
  • Providing or encouraging playdates 

Written by:

Isabelle van Hasselt

Clinical Psychologist

Master in pedagogical sciences/orthopedagogy (psychology)