Average child age 6 or under has just 4 friends, according to parent survey

NEW YORK — Two-thirds of parents are relieved when the school year starts, but not because they want a break from their children. According to a recent poll of 2,000 parents with children ages 6 or under, 56 percent believe that returning to school allows their children to regain normalcy by engaging in social activities and being with their friends.

Parents believe school is for more than just learning new things (54%); it’s also for making new friends (50%) and learning crucial social-emotional skills (48%), particularly those who can help them cope with daily challenges and grow academically, professionally and socially.

Conducted by OnePoll, on behalf of The Goddard School, the survey uncovers how parents immerse their children in social interactions before and throughout the pandemic.  Overall, about three in five (61%) believe that the pandemic has put their child behind both socially and developmentally. Further, 70 percent of parents agree that social-emotional learning and learning social skills are the most important growth areas for their child. 

In fact, learning social skills (36%) and gaining social-emotional intelligence (35%) are two of the top cited areas in which parents believe their children need the most support or improvement. Pre-pandemic, more than half (55%) of parents engaged their child in some sort of social activity between three and six times per week. But during the pandemic, that number dropped to 44 percent, and 11 percent of parents admit their child engaged in zero social activities. 

Parents turning to extracurricular activities to help children make more friends

On average, parents believe their child has four friends. In order to help them make more social connections, moms and dads are helping their kids learn crucial social-emotional skills by engaging them in extracurricular or group activities (50%), teaching them how to listen to others (48%) and teaching them to share with others (44%).

“As families across the country continue to adapt to the evolving changes in daily life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for social-emotional development has never been greater. The survey data shows parents are taking note and are prioritizing social-emotional development to help their children grow after a challenging period of time for us all,” says Dr. Lauren Starnes, senior vice president and chief academic officer at Goddard Systems, franchisor of The Goddard School, in a statement. “It’s critical that children learn and have opportunities to practice essential social-emotional skills such as self-awareness, decision making, self-management, social awareness and friendship skills so they’re not just school ready, but also life and career ready.”

The little ones aren’t the only students in the household, either. More than three in four parents (77%)  agree that they learn from their children just as much as their children learn from them.  The top two social-emotional skills that children have taught their parents are understanding (52%) and patience (52%).

And on top of that, parents admit that they find themselves surprised by their child’s maturity and intelligence about five times per week. When asked about the most important social-emotional skill their child has taught them, one respondent pointed to empathy. “Sometimes I forget how it is to be young and empathize with their feelings,” the parent admits. “They are teaching me that now.”

Other popular responses include “happiness” and “honesty.”

Schools today should be striving to strengthen the home-to-school connection and striving to be true partners of our students’ parents,” said Dennis R. Maple, chairman and CEO of Goddard Systems. “Children learn meaningful lessons at school, and parents are provided with the tools to continue their child’s education at home.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,001 parents of children ages 0-6 was commissioned by The Goddard School between July 29 and August 12, 2022. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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  1. Kinda stupid. Who cares? Friends come and go and it has a lot to do with parents. As you age, you drop friends. Their not trinkets you add to your keychain, they’re dead weights to be gotten rid of.

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