Helping Your Child Say Sorry

It was the first of our Grade 1 play dates with two of my daughter’s classmates, a girl she befriended and a boy who we are family friends with. I envisioned the play date to be a fun evening for the kids, and a chatty one for us moms. I baked muffins and planned treats for all involved. I didn’t think it would matter that there were two girls and a boy, because my daughter enjoys the company of both.

But it panned out differently than I expected. When Mathilde came over, my daughter Ayaana was over the moon. Their friendship was just a couple months old, and she was excited to share her toys and play with them. A little while later, Oates joined the play date and my four-year-old son joined him in some rambunctious play like boys often do. While the girls were having a field day playing with ponies and making bracelets, my daughter didn’t take notice that Oates started to feel left out. We don’t consciously encourage gendered play in our home but it seems to be the route my kids have naturally taken: my son loves his vehicles and my daughter adores her dolls. They do play with each other’s toys as well but on this particular evening, Ayaana was happy to have a girlfriend for pretend play instead of her usual companion, her younger brother.

Oates ended up in tears because he didn’t feel welcomed into the girls’ clique. It wasn’t until then that the girls stopped to think about their actions and how it was affecting their friend. Although they didn’t intend for him to feel left out, it was hard for a couple of 7-year-olds to fathom. It was the perfect opportunity to teach empathy and inclusion. We asked the girls how they would feel if they were invited to a play date and they couldn’t play. We immediately saw a lightbulb go off in their minds, and they apologized and promised to play something they all wanted to play. In the end, they shared hugs and all was well in friendship world. More importantly, I hope the lesson they learned in caring for the feelings of others will remain alive in their future interactions.