My youngest, a high school Freshman, had seven of his friends stay over recently. Some of them have been friends since 2nd or 3rd grade, others since 5th or 6th. They’ve made it through middle school.
And they respect each other.
Each of my four kids have had good friends. It’s not just luck, but it’s also not without hurt.
Your kids can find good friends. But it starts young. Here are 5 tips for helping your kids forge quality friends.
- Teach them what it means to feel respected and honored when they’re young. Use those words–honor and respect–when you see it in action. Also, discuss what it’s not when you see someone disrespect another person either in person or on TV. Call it what it is when a classmate or friend disrespects them. Correct your child when they aren’t treating someone with respect or honor. Have honor be the code in all relationships. Use scripture to talk about godly relationships.
- Spend time with families who have similar values. While kids are different people than their parents, during the formative years, they pick up their parent’s values. Kids can be raised with great values and still be a bad friend, but the odds are less likely if their parents have values similar to yours. When your kids are young, hang out with like-minded families. Kids who interact with adults and kids in a safe, godly environment are more empowered to seek out these relationships when parents aren’t around.
- Talk about quality vs. quantity relationships. Having one or two friends who your child or teen feels comfortable with is more important than having lots of friends who don’t really care about them. Let your child know it’s okay to just have one or two friends, especially in the upper elementary and middle school years when social groups are forming. Having one friend who has your back means you avoid the larger group who doesn’t.
- Model good relationships. Your kids observe your friendships with others. They can tell when you’re being disrespected or when popularity is your priority. If you gossip or let gossip cripple your self esteem, don’t expect anything different from them. Kids look to adults–parents first–for the unwritten rules of life. Insecure, bad relationships or healthy, trustworthy relationships are modeled first by you.
- Keep the doors of communication open between you and them. Your kids, especially teens, need to be able to come to you when they’re navigating bad friendships. If you’re quick to judge or lecture before listening, they’ll be less likely to talk to you about their struggles. Kids often say, “You don’t understand” because they fear judgment or condemnation. Your kids need you even if they don’t say so.
- Support them when others come against them, equipping them to be strong and assertive when necessary. Bullying is real. If bullying behavior happens from s0-called friends, then it’s not a friendship and your child should stop hanging out with that person or group. If your child has chronic problems with being insecure, victimized, or put-down in friendships, you may want to consider counseling or extra-curricular activities which builds their confidence and assertiveness.
- Pray with them and for them. This is most important. God is bigger than childhood relationships. Let them know that God cares about them and is with them in their trials.
Good childhood friends really can’t be formed in 7 easy steps. The most important thing is to know your child, who their friends are, and to be actively engaged in their relationships outside of your family.
What has been helpful in your experience with friendships?