Books for helping children manage friendship problems
Learning how to recognise a good friend (and how to be one) is an important part of childhood. All children experience some ups and downs in friendships. Parents can play an important role in helping children manage friendship problems by helping them think about why their friends might be behaving in a particular way and discussing what qualities and actions show that someone is a good friend. (See these Tips for helping children with friendship problems)
Snuggling up with a book can be a great way to talk through friendship issues sensitively with young children and introduce new ideas. And for older children, who want to think about issues for themselves, books can be a safe space to work through thoughts, scenarios and emotions.
Any book can be used to talk about friendship (see our free video on Using Story Time to understand your child better for tips on this). But here are some specific recommendations for really good books for helping children manage friendship problems.
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Axel Scheffler’s fabulous Pip and Posy series is full of great themes for toddlers and has his signature Gruffalo-style illustrations. The Super Scooter is all about that hotspot of toddler emotions: sharing. There is jealousy, snatching, saying sorry and learning to play nicely – ideal for very young children who are grappling with early social skills! (And if you still struggling, check out my Teaching children to share FAQs.) Ages 1-3yrs
Willow Finds a Way by Lana Button really cleverly explores how playground friendship issues can spill over into bullying behaviour. It’s a fantastic book for reading with pre-school or early school age children to help them unpick at what point unkindness becomes unacceptable. The Speak Up message is spot on and especially so because Willow is really shy so standing up for herself is not something that comes easily. A great conversation starter. Ages 3-7yrs
The subtitle of The Not-So-Friendly Friend (by Christina Furnival) is ‘How to set boundaries for Healthy Friendships’ and it is definitely a book with clear learning points. As a result, it reads a bit more like classroom tool than a genuinely enjoyable story. But because it is so direct, it could be a useful tool for parents who are struggling to support their child to draw boundaries around a classmate’s problematic behaviour. There are some conversation starter tips at the end too, for ideas on how to lead the discussion. Ages 4-7yrs
If you are looking for a book exploring the conflicts that occur when a pair of good friends expands to become a trio, Big Friends by Linda Sarah is a good pick. There is jealousy, feeling left out and lots of big emotions to discuss – all in a very safe and familiar-feeling storybook. I especially like it because the main characters are boys (most of the stories on this topic involve girl trios). Ages 4-8yrs
Growing Friendships by Eileen Kennedy-Moore is a non-fiction guide for children on how to make and keep friends. If your child is struggling generally with social skills and friendships, this book comes highly recommended by parents and professionals. It’s full of comic-strip examples to talk through, plus guidance and strategies for children to try out. Contains a surprising amount of humour which might help reduce worries! Ages 6-9yrs
The scenario behind Make Friends Break Friends (by Julia Jarman) is a typical girls’ toxic trio but the twisty plot elevates this to a jolly good read. If your child is a fairly confident reader, they could read it alone – or you can read it together. Very easy to identify with and lots of good learning without being at all preachy. Ages 7-9yrs
Even if they are able to read it themselves, I thoroughly recommend that you read Billionaire Boy out loud with your children! David Walliams has a turn of phrase and sense of humour that deserves to be shared. And reading it together means you can actually talk about the book’s important themes of loneliness and being left out and learning to recognise when would-be friends have bad intentions. It’s a book you will talk about as a family and opens up a way to discuss boys’ feelings and friendships without sledge-hammering the topic home. Ages 7-10yrs
Jacqueline Wilson’s Bad Girls is a great choice for helping children manage friendship problems in the later primary school years. What counts as bullying? How can you recognise a good friend? What about a fun friend who gets you into trouble? And should you really listen to your Mum’s opinion about your friends?! Older children are more likely to read it alone, so you might not get so many conversation-starting benefits from this book, but it’s a great story for making kids reflect on their own friendships whilst also enjoying reading. Ages 9-11yrs
This is a great one for the tricky tween years and the transition to secondary school. The Catastrophic Friendship Fails of Lottie Brooks is the second in Katie Kirby’s Lottie Brooks series (after The Extremely Embarrassing Life of Lottie Brooks) and it’s a must-read! It’s got so much going on, is really funny, utterly gripping and does such a good job at making the reader laugh while simultaneously feeling understood. It covers lots of different friendship issues so something for every tween who is worried about fitting in, being liked and navigating difficult peer group scenarios. Ages 9-12yrs
A non-fiction alternative for helping children manage friendship problems is A Smart Girl’s Guide: Friendship Troubles by Patty Kelley Criswell. It’s a bit Americanised but definitely worth a shot if friendship problems are plaguing your daughter. It covers backstabbing, friendship triangles, falling out with your bestie and all the common friendship group issues but in an accessible, interactive and practical format. Ages 8-11yrs
When Girls Fall Out is a book for adults, not children. It aims to help parents and professionals understand girls’ experiences within friendships so we can say the right things and support them effectively. It contains a forensic exploration of the way girls behave and why they often struggle with friendship dynamics. There is real insight here along with practical strategies for adults. If you are working with school-aged girls or are baffled by why your daughter reacts the ways she does to friendship ups and downs, this is truly enlightening. It is written by father and daughters team Andrew, Holly and Naomi Hampton. For parents of girls 7-18yrs
This is my pick of the best books for helping children manage friendship problems. I’d love to hear you feedback and your recommendations – please do comment below! You might also want to take a look at this video: “I don’t like my daughter’s friends”.
And if you found this post useful, you might also like these:
- Best books to teach children social skills (2-7yrs)
- Books for talking to children about emotions
- Children’s books about shyness
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*This is not a sponsored post, I wrote it in response to questions I am frequently asked during my parenting clinics. However, it does contain affiliate links (which means that if you click through from this post to Amazon and buy one of these books, I will get a small fee). I received free review copies of some books on this list. For more info, see my Disclosure Notice. The age ranges are those recommended by the publishers.