How our children’s social lives affect their academic success

Having friends teaches our children social and emotional skills that cannot be taught through instruction. But did you know that friendship can also boost academic achievement?

Research has consistently shown that friendship and group membership in school is positively related to academic performance. In a 2018 meta-analysis of 22 different scientific studies, Kathryn Wentzel and her research team concluded that “working together with a friend and simply having a friend were related significantly and positively both to cognitive and performance outcomes.”

As parents, we can’t control our children’s acceptance by their peers. We can, however, help them develop the social skills necessary to build and maintain friendships.

First, parents need to model good social behavior. When talking to your child, it’s important to talk to them in a manner that your child can emulate. This means demonstrating good emotional management by resolving conflicts in a civil, constructive way.

Another way parents can teach good social skills is to validate their child’s emotions. This means not trivializing or punishing problematic emotions, but rather talking through your children’s emotions with them so they can better understand and control their feelings.

One thing that might be particularly difficult for parents is granting their children the freedom to figure out social relationships. This doesn’t mean disconnecting entirely from your children’s social life, but rather asking questions about their friendships. Ask them what they do with their friends, how they feel about who they hang out with, and what kind of influence those friends are having.

We can’t control our kids’ social lives, but we can help our children take stock of their relationships to make the right choices when choosing friends. We can also put our children in enriching social situations where they can develop friendships around positive activities.

At JEI, our intimate classroom environment allows our students to build relationships centered around learning. Our Reading & Writing program, in particular, puts children in conversation with each other around classic children’s stories as well as some non-fiction. To enroll your child in our programs, find a JEI Learning Center near you.