Friendships are definitely something to cherish throughout life. Friendships can make all the difference in our world, especially when we are going through challenging times. They can give us strength to ‘hang in there’ and ‘keep going’ when we feel like giving up. Friendships can make life so much more fun, especially when we have friends that enjoy the same things we do. Experiencing new things and life with great friends is something to savour. It’s so true because a laugh shared has so much more power behind it, a memory shared has such a bigger impact.
When we have friends and the kind who believe in us, we can go to a whole new level in life. Real friends will 1) See the potential within us 2) They will call it forward and encourage us to step out of our comfort zone and into our potential 3) They will challenge us to grow bigger and stronger.
Rob and I have been blessed over the years to have made some wonderful friendships that have impacted our lives and added to our overall ‘life experience’. These friends have also impacted the lives of our children, in a positive way. As a family, we have have many memories of holidaying with friends, New Year’s Eve parties and traditions shared with friends and then the every day life experiences that we often talk about as a family that were shared with friends.
It’s fun getting out old photos and remembering great times we have had with so many families. I love reminising with the kids and talking about the strong bond that remains with so many of the families we have done seasons of life with. I love that the children have, through these experiences, made lifelong friendships and now we see them taking their families on weekends away, etc. I find this time of life fascinating, as I look at life and looking back and the relationships and how so many have lasted the test of time. Now, our grandchildren are playing together and enjoying one another.
Some of you reading may wonder how friendships like this exist. Perhaps this experience hasn’t been something you’ve known. Perhaps your family have had friendships come and go and you have marvelled at those ‘lifelong’ friendships that people have. Or, maybe you totally understand what I mean and you too have experienced the richness of this kind of friendship. Whatever the case maybe, I’d like to share how these friendships form.
Establishing and maintaining friendships can be very tricky – especially for children as they are learning their social skills. Obviously, this comes more naturally to some than others. As parents we can help our children along the way and give them guidance by example and by words of advice from what we have learned.
At Little Miracles we always encourage the children to interact with each other positively. Through this positivity we are able to help the little ones navigate and negotiate different personalities, likes and dislikes, etc. All of these being very important as we journey through life and it’s complexities.
As we well know, none of us are going to be appreciated by everyone, there will always be those we click with more than others and we need to teach that that’s okay. Sometimes personalities mix and sometimes, for whatever reason, they don’t. Not understanding this and teaching this will result in exhaustion because without this understanding, much like us, children will try, try and try again. We need to give our children the freedom to be released from being friends with everyone. As I write this, I realise this probably isn’t the ‘most’ popular thing I’ve written but trust me, as a mother, a grandmother, a friend to many and an educator, this makes sense.
Let’s teach our children the how behind friendship and being a friend. How to care for others, how to value others and how to appreciate and celebrate difference.
It’s important to teach our children to give into their relationships, it’s lovely when we receive, however, if we don’t teach them to be kind, patient and listen to their friends they will never experience long lasting friendships that stand the test of time.
Another important thing to learn in friendship is the word ‘no’ or ‘stop, I don’t like that’. We need to empower them by explaining we can still like someone and be friends whilst saying no to them. Obviously, this can be a challenging thing to teach because as little ones, they think the world revolves around them and saying no is something they have in their tool belt whilst yes is also there as well. For example, we need to let them know they can say no while yet there are times they need to say yes to things like: ‘yes, you can have a turn, I am happy for you to have a lend of my toy even when it is precious to me’ or ‘Yes, you are my friend too’.
Another lesson to teach is about respect. Respect is a huge part of a healthy friendship. This can be taught through the sharing of toys, we need to teach them how to play with other people’s toys. They need to learn to be careful and not damage that toy, to give it back nicely and to say thank you when it’s time.
Sharing is often a hard thing to learn, some do it easier than others, if they don’t learn to share well, they will limit their ability to have strong relationships. Whilst teaching this it’s good to remind yourself how you (as a parent) feel when you share your possessions. Again, remembering that they catch much more than they are taught.
Other important factors of teaching about friendship and how lifelong friendships are established are things, that will probably been seen rather than taught are things like: Are you hospitable? Are you generous? How are you modelling friendship to them? Do you take offence easily? Do you forgive easily or do you keep grudges and manipulate?
Children are expert imitators so watch how you operate in the realm of true friendships. Watch your words, your body language. There is so much to be mindful of and the challenge keeps us in strong relationships.
In regards to your children and their friendship circles, here are some of my top tips:
1) Don’t worry if your child likes to just have a small number of friends, we all have different needs, it doesn’t mean they have weak social skills or anything like that. Some children are simply happy with a small circle of friends and are completely fulfilled, others are friends with everyone.
2) Remember that we must never put our expectations, whether they be good or bad, onto to them. Don’t put your experiences onto them either, we are all different and have different needs.
3) Don’t compare them to other children or siblings, let them be themselves and celebrate them
4) Always speak confidently to them about their time with other children and remember they are children so some of their comments may need clarifying. 5) Ask some of their friends home for a play date and do this one at a time. Provide fun experiences for them, they don’t have to be expensive, the park, the beach or an ice cream at Macas is fine. This allows you the opportunity to see for yourself just what their friends are like and what your child is like, plus you can guide them how to do this journey well. In suggesting play dates, I strongly suggest you don’t make the play dates too long so they don’t tire too much and get out of sorts with each other. 6) Don’t worry if they aren’t a natural leader, we weren’t all meant to lead, it’s okay if they follow, just teach them how to do it well and wisely whilst teaching them to be strong in themselves. 7) Help them to know what to look for in a friend. 8) Ask them what they think they would like to find in a friend and what sort of friend do they want to be. 9) Speak confidently to them about how good they are at making friends. 10) Lastly , RELAX, let them show you just how competent they are at this without you making it happen for them.Remember how powerful your words are and how they receive confidence or lack of it from those words.
Enjoy and cherish the friendships you have so you can model it all to them.