What is a good friend?
When my oldest daughter was just three months old, I met bunch of moms from neighboring towns through a Mommy and Me class. We formed a playgroup and met weekly to let our little ones “play”. Just a few years later, with the addition of siblings, our group grew to 19 kids. There was never a shortage of fun or company.
Eventually the group saw less and less of each other as we moms were challenged with school calendars and sports schedules. That’s when I started scheduling play dates with kids in our community. I would invite them over for lunch or ask them to meet us at the park. There was always someone who wanted to play, so it was easy for my children to make friends.
Even though my kids were used to me managing their social calendar, they eventually wanted to choose their friends on their own. They were no longer willing to play with just anybody; they began to make specific requests. Their friendships depended on the activities they were involved with, the classes they were in, and those they connected with on the playground.
It was hard to let go of the control I had over who they played with.
When my 3rd grader started having trouble navigating the choppy waters of relationships at school it occurred to me that I hadn’t spent much time talking to her about how to choose good friends. I also realized that she may not even know how be a good friend herself. I shared with her what the Bible says about friendship and the lessons I have learned over the years.
When choosing good friends, remember they:
- Bring out the best in you. They make you feel good about yourself when you’re together. They encourage you with the things that they say and do. (Ephesians 4:29)
- Value your feelings. When something good happens, they’re happy for you. They celebrate your triumphs instead of compete with you. When you are angry or sad, they listen. (Romans 12:15)
- Respect your differences. You may not share the same opinion or have all the same interests but that’s okay; that’s what makes a friendship so much fun. Good friends are willing to explore what is important to one another and value each other’s gifts and talents. (1 Corinthians 12:12, Romans 12:4)
- Are faithful. A friend is someone you can count on. They are not your best friend one day and then someone else’s the next. You can count on them when you need a hand, just like they can count on you. (Proverbs 17:17)
Even though my little girl was having trouble with they way others were treating her, I reminded her that friendship is a two way street and it important to treat others the way you want to be treated. We talked about how she could be a good friend to others.
While many friendships begin organically, they thrive with intentionality. This includes:
- Putting other’s needs before yours. (Philippians 2:4)
- Speaking up and seeking reconciliation when feelings are hurt or there is a disagreement. (Matthew 18:15)
- Being consistent in how you treat them. Be kind, even if they happen to be rude; be patient with them even when you are having a bad day. (1 Corinthians 13:4)
- Not holding grudges for past mistakes. Forgiveness allows you both to learn from your experiences and allows your friendship to grow. (Ephesians 4:32)
I learned it’s never too early to talk to your little ones about friendship.
A great way to start the conversation is by reading with them The Blessings of Friendship by Mary Englebreit. It is a beautifully illustrated collection of poems, quotes, and Bible verses that celebrate the joys of friendship. However, this is not just another children’s picture book. It’s pages hold simple nuggets of truth for small kids and big kids alike.
Once you have read this with your child, keep the conversation going by sharing memories from when you were young, such as who you loved to play with and what you did together. This book can be appreciated by adults and makes a meaningful gift for a friend, especially one from your childhood.
Taking advantage of this and other great resources, as well as providing a listening ear, will equip your children to make good choices when making and keeping friends.
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Do you remember what it was like to try to befriend someone when you were young and be a good friend in return? Making good friends can be tricky! Being a good friend can be even trickier! Have you struggled with helping your kids build healthy and strong friendships? Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you.