Friends! We all have them. We all need them. Some people make them in dozens. Others tend to stick with a select few. God uniquely wired us for relationship and community, but sometimes it’s hard to make friends. We all want our children to be surrounded by people who love them and support them. What do you do when that’s not happening in your child’s life?
We talk about this topic often in Kidz Connection and in our discipleship classes with the kids. There is so much value in a good friendship. What makes someone a good friend and how do you get good friends?
This is a question that even as adults many of us struggle with–genuine friendships and having friends that are good for us.
Friendship–real, true, good-for-everyone-involved friendship is incredibly hard to come by. It takes work to have friends and to be a good friend.
First, friendships change over time. If you think back to your wedding day to the people who were in your wedding party, you may or may not even still be connected to those people, let alone have the same type of relationship now that you had then. This is a hard reality for young people to understand, especially teens. You are going to change and so are the people around you. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in good friendships but that does mean that everything has a season.
Secondly, not everyone we associate with or talk to is going to believe the exact same thing we do. Your kids can, will, and should talk to people who are not believers. The key is helping your children not to allow those people to influence them. This is much easier said than done. I will explain shortly.
Proverbs 13:20 says, “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.”
I absolutely love that Brian Dollar quotes this scripture here because we need to teach our kids that there are consequences for their choices and actions. If you choose to hang out with kids who are constantly getting into trouble, guess what? You will probably be getting into trouble also. No parent wants this for their kids but you can’t keep your kids from experiencing consequences along the way or they won’t learn to see the signs of them in their future.
It is my greatest belief that it all starts with prayer. You need to pray for your kids’ friends before they even have any. Pray for the kind of friends you want to see them have. Pray for the kind of friend you want your child to be. Make sure that you home is one your son or daughter feels comfortable to invite friends over to.
Questions are so important in conversation with your children. Understand they don’t necessarily refrain from answering you on purpose. They answer what is needed and that is why open-ended questions are so important. When you are in the car after school ask open-ended questions, not judging ones, but those that allow your child to share with you what has happened during their day. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what you observe with your child’s friends or their habits that can be different with other kids or environments.
Brian Dollar talks about these observations and they are very powerful. Many times we don’t realize how much we change around other people until someone points it out. A teenager or young child they can recoil if we do this harshly but there can be a very different result when it occurs in an open conversation that they regularly experience with you. You can use these times to help your child determine the quality of friend they want to be and have. If they notice that they are someone different and do not like certain characteristics about a person, you can help them to recognize those qualities and move past them. They can learn not to allow them to become a part of their life and that maybe that person is not who they want to have as a best friend.
Back to the second observation I made about your child’s friends. It’s good for your son or daughter to not exclusively talk to kids who believe the same thing they believe. This is not about toleration. This is about having to learn to work with and be around people who aren’t just like you all the time and still being able to stand on your faith.
This world is all about offense and the more you walk in it is seems the more “power” you have. That is not true. Those who are the most influential people are the ones who can live a life of integrity and conviction according to the Word of God.
In 8th grade, I had a very hard time with friends and school. My English teacher was showing a movie in his class my parents didn’t want me to see and, in turn, I was sent to the library for two weeks with pitiful amounts of busy work. The other kids in my class made fun of me for not watching the movie and even for actually doing the work.
As my high school career progressed I had very few friends at school. By very few I mean ZERO. In my sophomore through senior years I ate lunch in my French teacher’s classroom because there was no one to sit with me. I never walked to class with anyone and no one ever looked for me after class. God gave me an identity in athletics at that time. That is another story to be shared at another time, but the point is: God never left me.
I asked my parents about homeschooling me, or sending me to the school where my friends from church went and they said NO. I remember looking at my dad and wondering if he wanted me to continue living as a social outcast. No one liked me and I was constantly made fun of. He shared some of the greatest words of wisdom I would ever hear. He said that he and my mom wanted me to stay where I was so that I could learn to work with people who didn’t agree with me, believe what I believed, and in some cases believed the exact opposite. In those years they helped me process and handle situations so that in the future, I wouldn’t be easily shaken in my faith. As a result, I learned how to work with all kinds of people. I am thankful for that difficult lesson!
Keep working on constant, open conversation with your children. It is SO worth it as you get to pour wisdom into your child and prepare them to live successful adult lives.
Today’s discussion question:
When do you find the best time to have conversations with your children?
Levi and I talk every day after school and while we play games in the afternoon.