Social Skills How to Help Your Five-Year-Old Build Social Problem-Solving Skills

At age five, kids develop more stable friendships and social conflict among friends becomes inevitable. Kids are more likely to have conflict with close friends than with acquaintances because they spend more time with friends and have to negotiate different opinions, temperaments and styles of play. The good news is kids this age are highly motivated to solve these social problems because they care about the relationships. As parents, we can help children learn how to collaborate, cooperate, communicate, negotiate, self-advocate and respect others.

Help your five-year-old respectfully disagree with others and solve conflicts:

Promote Problem Solving

When children have a conflict, sometimes they need adults to step in and help them find healthy solutions ― especially if they are using harmful language or physical behavior. But when possible, encourage problem-solving behavior without solving the problem for them. This might sound like, "It sounds like you are upset because you both want to be the pirate king. How could we solve this?" Use the Daniel Tiger strategy song "Find a Way to Play Together" to talk to your child about navigating disagreements during playtime. And remember, sometimes conflicts are the result of kids feeling tired or hungry or overstimulated, and they just need a break! Two children who leave a playdate angry may very well be "best friends" the next day.

Talk About Examples

According to research, children learn more from media when their parents talk with them about what they are watching or creating. Many PBS Kids programs feature characters who are learning how to share, take turns, forgive and work through conflicts with peers. Watch one of these episodes together and talk about the choices the characters are making, how they feel and how they resolve social problems.

Help Them Make Amends

As the Daniel Tiger song reminds us, "Saying I'm sorry is the first step, then 'How can I help?'" If your child has made a choice that has hurt someone else, help them think about how they can make the situation better ― from helping clean up a mess to writing/drawing an apology note.

Talk About How to Disagree Respectfully

When your child doesn't see eye-to-eye with a peer, you can remind your child that sometimes friends don't agree on certain things — and that's okay. Even people who like each other a lot can have different opinions, likes or interests. But even when we disagree, we should always treat other people with respect and dignity. That means we DON'T call people names, ignore them, yell at them or hit them. That means we DO look for solutions that respect both parties, we do apologize when our actions hurt someone else and we do treat people with kindness.

Feeling Left Out

Brainstorming and role-playing how to cope with being left out can help prepare children for a time when they might be excluded from play.

Do This Activity

Help Your Child Manage Emotions with Arthur

Whether facing down a bully, worrying about a new teacher or being the very last person on earth to lose his baby teeth, Arthur and his friends manage to solve their crises with imagination, kindness and a lot of humor.

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Activity Finder: Learn With Your Five-Year-Old

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