Being a parent means thinking about what your kid is eating, what they’re watching, and how they’re thinking and feeling - but have you ever considered how important it can be to focus on the friendships in your child’s life?
Relationships affect all of us in big ways, from our very first friendships to our last ones, and helping your child find good friends, be a good friend, and continue to nurture their friendships can set them up to have a supportive and nurturing circle of relationships in their own lives as they grow up.
Check out 4 ways to support your child in building healthy, lasting friendships.
1. Establish what a healthy friendship looks like
Take the time to define a healthy friendship in your household and why it’s important to be friends with others who know how to be good friends. You can use the following examples of a healthy friend: someone who lets you go first sometimes, listens to you and lets you talk, doesn’t pressure you to do or say things that you don’t feel comfortable doing and saying, etc.
Once you and your child have defined a “good friend,” have them start to “hunt” for those qualities (like a detective!) in the people they meet and let you know when they’ve found them. This will help your child be able to use the “good friend” traits throughout their life when determining who to spend their time with.
2. Help your child identify their own friendship traits
Once you’ve talked about what makes someone a good friend, ask your child what kind of friend they want to be to others, and point them back to the “good friend” traits that you worked on together. Talk through which of those traits they believe they have, and how they can work on the ones that don’t come as naturally to them. Be sure to encourage the good traits when you see them exhibiting them!
Use this conversation to talk about how being a good friend is important, and how the Bible even talks about friendship in John 15:13 “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” It’s not only important that we choose good friends, it’s just as important that we are good friends to others and show them the love of Jesus!
3. Remind your child that friends don’t have to all be the same
One of the easiest ways to make a quick friend is to find something you both like - movies, LEGOS, the color pink - and sometimes these friendships blossom into the deepest ones! But show your child that it’s also okay to make friends with others who maybe don’t share their same interests, or even have totally different ones.
Explain that even though they might not like puzzles, they can be open to trying a puzzle with a friend and that they might learn something new about puzzles, about their friend, or about themselves. This is a great way to create familiarity with differences in others and teach humility, respect, and the willingness to learn new things.
4. Prepare practical ways to deal with conflict
Even if your child is young, they’ll experience conflict in their friendships. And while conflict is never fun, there are ways you can prepare them to handle it as productively as possible. Teach your child to solve problems in their friendships quickly by first identifying the problem - it can be helpful to have them fill in the blanks in a sentence like, “I feel _______ because __________ .” Once they become familiar with expressing their feelings and identifying why when they’re facing an issue, you can work with them to take the next steps to resolve it.
If there seem to be specific conflicts that are coming up time and time again with your child, be intentional about role-playing those moments of conflict with them when you’re in a safe and controlled environment. This will prepare them to handle it well the next time they face it with a friend.
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Friendships are a fun part of your child’s life to watch unfold, and they’re even more enjoyable when your child is learning and growing from them. For more information on ways, your child can learn and grow in their relationship with God and others, visit LCBCchurch.com/kids.