5 Ways to Help Your Kids Make Deep and Lasting Friendships
5 Ways to Help Your Kids Make Deep and Lasting Friendships
Aaron Brown GodTube Contributing Author
The journey toward friendship is not easy. Like we did, our kids will meet those who impress, disappoint, surprise, and shock. Before we can teach our children on what friendship is all about, first, we have to refine our own understanding.
If there is one concept that children speak a lot about, but don’t yet truly understand, that concept is friendship. Children often talk to their parents about friends they made at school, daycare, or anywhere else. Their qualifications for friendship are usually not high either. They simply need someone with which they can enjoy quality time, horseplay, laugh, and feel appreciated. With only those things in place, almost anybody can become a child's friend.
This can be a good thing, though this can also prove detrimental. As easily as children make friends, they lose them just the same. Children sometimes come home retelling their parents about how so-and-so didn’t want to play with them. “They aren’t my friend anymore,” the child may say.
Of course this childish definition of friendship is more emotional than anything. Children have an understanding of the word, but only a limited understanding.
With both experience and age, adults can attest to the fact that friendships are deeper, and though a child’s criteria for friendship is helpful, that is not the full scope. Adults come to realize that friends sometimes let you down, sometimes people are not actually friends, and that not everyone is meant to be a friend, no matter how often you see them.
Finding Those True Friendships
Adults know more about friendship, but then again, there are many adults too who struggle with the term. Some adults are too quick to call someone a friend, while others have no one to call a friend. Moreover, some indicate they have friends for specific places: work friends, church friends, or back home friends. How much of how we define friendship is based on our own personality as opposed to Scripture?
The Bible’s definition of friendship is much more concrete, exclusive, loving, and far less proximity-based.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time.” (Proverbs 17:17)
If a friend loves at all times, then their care is not limited to the moments where they get along. Friendship is meant to endure difficulties, and a friend’s love is shared consistently no matter the environment, hence “at all times.”
The Bible offers even more on this topic. However, before we can teach our children on what friendship is all about, first, we have to refine our own understanding. The more we know, the more we pass on.
Once you’re ready, here are 5 ways to help your kids make deep and lasting friendships.
1. Teach Them What You Know
“Start a youth out on his way; even when he grows old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
The first and most obvious way to enlighten your children about friendship is to teach them. No one comes into this world knowing exactly what they want in a friend or aware of everything they should want.
The responsibility of parents then is to help children understand the intricacies of friendship. We are tasked with helping them understand what sorts of people are worthy of that title, and what sort of actions come along with such a relationship. They rely on us to teach them what to give and what to expect.
Children who are instructed on how to manage friendships will have plenty of wisdom by the time they become an adult. They may even be saved from unnecessary heartache in the process. Then they’ll be able to teach their children.
2. Model the Friendship They Should Seek
Not only should parents teach their children about friendship, but they themselves should model the qualities of a friend. Parents have the opportunity every day to exhibit qualities that children will want to look for in friends. Such behaviors include: trustworthiness, empathy, kindness, patience, and more.
In fact, the Bible posits a list of loving behaviors we are tasked with showing one another in 1 Corinthians 13. The more parents can successfully model these behaviors, the more children will enact them and seek them from others.
Empirical research has shown this to be true, and the same applies to households where children do not witness love. They gravitate towards people who treat them like their parents.
3. Seize Quality Time
Teaching and role-modeling positive behavior for our children is impossible without quality time. This can be found any moment where we spend time with our children, getting to know them, allowing them to know us, and allowing the love of God to permeate the relationship.
We can only sharpen one another when we spend time together. Not only do children benefit from the time we spend with them, but allowing them to spend time with other children and other adults will help to discern the meaning of friendship also.
While we can spend plenty of time teaching our children, they also learn from experience, just as we did. They need to spend time with their peers and other adults when appropriate. The more socializing children can do, the better equipped at communication they will be as they grow older. We adults came to understand the idea of friendship because we spent time with people. Our children must do the same.
This does not mean we allow them to spend time with just anyone, especially those who could pose a bad influence, but we must give them room to spread their wings.
4. Value Discipline
“The one who will not use the rod hates his son, but the one who loves him disciplines him diligently.” (Proverbs 13:24)
No successful parent can avoid disciplining their child. And no successful friendship happens without the ability to overcome conflict. This may seem counterintuitive, but discipline will help children appreciate and understand friendship.
The Bible makes clear that life will not always be peachy (John 16:33). This also applies to our relationships. Children who are well-disciplined will not crumble in the face of adversity, nor allow their relationships to falter.
Just as God disciplines us, a parent discipling a child serves as a reminder that we are not perfect. People around us are not perfect. Still, we would do well to always give thanks and appreciate the people in our lives (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
5. Allow Pain
“Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.” (Psalm 126:5)
Just as children learn from experiences, we have to do what no parent prefers — allow the child to experience pain. Sometimes we have to fall many times before finally standing up (Proverbs 24:16). This surely applies to our children who come into the world unaware and must learn all the dos and don’ts.
We may sometimes want to micromanage our child’s relationships, but allowing them to experience the highs and lows of life will help shape them into a more Christ-like person as they encounter opportunities to see Christ’s redemptive work in messy moments. We can rest assured that though we take our hands off of our children to a degree, God’s protective hands remain ever present.
A Worthwhile Friend
Maybe by now you’ve connected the dots. By reading Scripture and becoming more godly, we are in effect becoming more like Christ. This is also what we want for our children. What better example of a friend than Christ?
He’s the ultimate friend: ever-patient, ever-present, ever-wise, and oh so kind. He’s the friend we all hope for, and though no one will ever match what He is, we can still seek for those who most closely resemble Christ. The more our children know about Christ, about God, about Scripture, the more they will seek out individuals whom they can serve out of love, and who will also want to serve them.
The journey toward friendship is not easy. Like we did, our kids will meet those who impress, disappoint, surprise, and shock. Still, much like the journey of being a Christian, we will reap friendships if we faint not (Galatians 6:9).
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Helena Lopes
Aaron Brown is a freelance writer, dance teacher, and visual artist. He currently contributes articles to GodUpdates, GodTube, iBelieve, and Crosswalk. Aaron also supports clients through the freelance platform Upwork.
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