5 Ways to Help Our Children Find and Keep Friends

Updated Aug 10, 2023
5 Ways to Help Our Children Find and Keep Friends

I met my best friend in the 4th grade at our small Catholic school. We shared everything. She was a good, caring listener and always put me first. One day at recess, I slid on the rough pavement running to first base, ripping up my skin from my rib to my stomach. My eyes were hot with tears; I ran to the bathroom to get a cold paper towel to tend the wound. My friend left the game, hugged me as I cried, and got a teacher. The tears I wept that day paled in comparison to graduation day. We each went to different high schools, and we knew in our heart’s things would change between us. Although we still chat occasionally, we were never as close as in elementary school. 

As Christians, there are some things we can apply from the Bible to help our kids make good friendship choices. Jesus was the ultimate example of a good friend. John 15:13 says, 

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” 

Good friends are like marriages; each party thinks about and puts the other first. Here are five ways to teach children to find and keep friends in this hostile world.

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Parents with child; teach discernment.

Teach discernment. 

Discernment is not only a spiritual gift but a necessary tool in deciding which friends to have and which to avoid. Not every person your child gravitates towards is worthy of their friendship. In the same way, not every person who likes your son or daughter is worthy of a relationship. As parents, we never allow our children to get involved in abusive relationships. When someone takes more than they give, gossips (or slanders) your child behind their back, remarks, or belittles them to others, they are not worthy of their friendship. It is not right to pressure your child to be salt and light to friends who mistreat them. An important skill to have, not only with children but also with adults, is to set good boundaries and to learn how to love ourselves as Christ loves us. This means saying no to people who violate our boundaries when they don't treat us with worth and value. Although people make mistakes, it is not good to continue in a relationship with someone who is unrepentant in their behavior and continues to mistreat the other. Teach them to let go of a relationship if it proves toxic. 

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Mom friends in different stages of motherhood; be a good friend.

Be a good friend.

Children can choose friends in the same way as they are a friend to others. My friend in elementary school demonstrated kindness, caring, and compassion toward me and other class members. It was easy to become and stay friends with her. I chose a friend who treated me the same way I treated her. To this day, she's one of the best friends I ever had. Although I wish every person had a friend like I had back then, I realized the world has changed. 

If your child is a good friend to others, encourage them to choose someone in whom they see themselves. Chances are a good friend will emulate the same traits as your child and therefore be easy to spot (and keep) as a friend. With cyberbullying, comparison, and many other factors, kids face more opposition than ever as they choose (and save) friends in the world today. Although the core needs to belong and be accepted have not changed, exhibiting self-control and wisdom when choosing friends is more important than ever. 

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Silhouette of cross against sunset background; provide a Christ-centered example.

Provide a Christ-centered example. 

As adults, we find it increasingly difficult to make and keep friends. We live in a transient world where people move, and other distractions cause us to lose friendships. Life is especially transient in churches as people sometimes join and leave churches quickly. It is hard to become close with someone whom you know will leave at some point. We must emulate Christ-like character in choosing our relationships as well. Children are always watching us. When we set the example of a good relationship and the character traits we should possess, our children will follow suit. They will probably choose people who demonstrate good qualities so they can have the same healthy relationships as us. 

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Apple with heart bitten out; demonstrate the fruit of the spirit.

Demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit. 

Galatians 5 gives us the best example of what the fruit of the spirit should look lik": 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” 

We should demonstrate the fruit of the spirit to everyone, not just those close to us. For example, when the wai"ress gets our order wrong, do we complain and send it back, asking for a refund? Or do we keep it in stride, knowing they made a mistake, and act gracefully and gentleness? Do we become impatient in an overly long slow- moving grocery line? Or do we take the time to look around us and talk with people to seek opportunities to spread the gospel? Not only are our children watching what we say and do, but the world is also watching. 

The world is crying out for people who act like Christ. When we act gentleness, respect, and love toward everyone we meet, even those with whom we disagree, we demonstrate the fruits of the spirit. In a world where everyone feels they need to give their opinion, let's silently, with our actions, demonstrate what it means to be a good friend to others so our kids can learn that as let's

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Group of kids in a classroom; check their character.

Check their character. 

Character is often an aspect of a friend we don't usually check. Integrity is what people do when no one's watching. It is one thing for your child's friend to be respectful to you while they're at your home or school. But what happens when your child is with them by themselves? Do they scheme to do evil? Do they act in rebellion to authority, or do they submit to authority? Do they do the right thing even if it costs them something? A child who acts with integrity will likely grow up to be an adult with integrity. Please encourage your child to find someone who acts with honor and dignity even when they shouldn't. 

As parents, we are tasked with our children's social and emotional development. That includes choosing good friends that will lay the groundwork for healthy relationships in the future. Helping them discern which friends should stay and which should go and treating friends with integrity are great ways to pick good people who will influence our children to become outstanding adults.

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Writer Michelle LazurekMichelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.com.

Originally published Thursday, 10 August 2023.