Helping our Kids develop solid friendships – part 1

Several events from this past week of helping a couple of friends deal with some heavy relational issues have caused me to reflect on friendships and the importance in our lives of great friends. I have also pondered over how some people seem to be ‘naturals’ at making friends, and others seem to long for great friends but never seem to quite get there with their friendships.

This ‘pondering’ has resulted in a new series of blogs over the coming weeks on ‘Friendships’. Today’s blog is the first in the series and looks at the issue of the Purpose of Friends. In order for my children to be world changers, they need to influence people. That involves them having great friendships and being a great friend.

One of my children is a ‘natural’ at making friends and being a friend. I have learned a lot by watching her and how she views friendships and the loyalty that she brings to all of her friendships. No matter how much of a ‘natural’ she is in this area, especially as she has a very high E.Q., there has still been a number of things that we have had to chat over, look at her growing in, and helping her with, in regard to friendships.

When I was fairly new to Intensive Care Nursing, my hospital sent me on a stress management course before it became ‘popular’ to implement stress management principles in your life. The main principle touted on the day was that if you look at your hand, you have five fingers. If you can have five friends in your life whom you can share absolutely anything with and it wouldn’t cause them to think less of you and it wouldn’t change your relationship with them, then that is great and it will reduce any stress in your life. An interesting perspective that is not necessary true but I can attest to the fact that to have five solid friends in my life who accept me no matter what has certainly helped me grow and thrive as an adult. These friends have not been lifelong friends. Some have only been great friends over the last two to five years but we have shared deeply and traversed through several difficult life events that have brought us closer. I have another great friendship developing with an amazing woman whom I have really only known properly for the last three months as she has worked on some really deep issues in her life, whilst also challenging me on various assumptions and beliefs in my life.

 

Friendship is different to being popular.

 

With our children, it is important to help them understand the purpose of friendships. Perhaps brainstorm with your kids what they see as the purpose of friendships. This may include:

  1. To have fun and laugh together.
  2. To be able to share life and daily events with someone.
  3. To have someone to sort through issues with and grow in your understanding of things.
  4. To help you work out your purpose in life.
  5. To encourage you to be the best you can be.
  6. To help you develop emotional and social skills and maturity.
  7. To help you not feel lonely and help your mental health.
  8. To help in learning group skills and culturally appropriate communication.
  9. To help us become a better person and to change and grow. They call us on our issues, nudge us to grow and support us through it all.

I believe that when we start to realise the purpose of friendships, we can more clearly see who our friends really are.

We also need to look at whether we are expecting too much from friendships and having false expectations of what a friend is. It is easy to fall into the trap of making an idol out of friendships.

In our family, we don’t do ‘best friends’. I don’t believe that the exclusivity of having a best friend is healthy. We have lots of ‘close’ friends but we allow our ‘close’ friends to also have other close friends.

Several great questions to ask when chatting to your kids about friendships, and even for yourself as an adult, are:

  1. “Who do you like being around?”
  2. “Who do you like that you are around these friends?” or “Who do you become when you are around those friends?” ie Can you truly be yourself or do you need to change or hide part of yourself when you are around them?
  3. “Who are the people in your life, and your kid’s lives, who bring out the best in you and your kids?

The people you are around will influence you and can cause you to act and think in different ways.

I encourage you this week to have a family discussion about friends, the purpose of friends and who these people in your life are whom you like being around and who you can be your most natural self around.

Please feel free to comment below on your thoughts about friendships, especially in regard to your kids and helping them grow in this area.

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