“Who’s your friend?” is a question often asked, and discussed in this household amongst my children.
They are all at different stages of making and understanding what a friend is.
The younger children sees a friend as being any other child who plays with them, and will confidently say, “Mummy this is my friend!” as they drag a wide eyed child over to meet me in the local playground.
The oldest child has reached the stage where she has to separate the wheat from the chaff, and that’s a painful process, with hormones and peer pressure thrown in. It’s hard for this age group to know who are their real friends, the ones that won’t gang up against them, put pressure on them to conform or make them feel guilty if they don’t agree or want to do something that the friend does. At this age they are desperate to be liked, to have friends and not to be the odd one out.
As a parent you so desperately want your child to be happy, secure in themselves, with a great bunch of friends, so it’s hard having to stand back letting them find their own way through the friendship minefield.
All you can do is encourage them to look for the positive in people, and to develop the skill of knowing which friendships are worth investing in. Most importantly is teaching them how to be good friends to others.
So how can they learn this? By watching us, their parents, family and friends in our own relationships with others. They need to learn that it’s ok to walk away from a friendship if it’s not right for them, and not to sustain it out of guilt or pressure. They need to learn that it is ok to mourn a loss of friendship when it ends, and that sometimes it can be picked up again in the future. But most importantly they need to learn that both they and their friend have to put the effort in to build a friendship that last longterm .
I’m lucky I have a number of really good friends who I can tell my children about, and they are able to witness these friendships in action. But those friendships didn’t come easily, they’ve been formed and developed over time. My hope for my children is that as they grow, they too find friends who will be there to support them through the ups and downs of life, and to make memories with.