Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Be-attitudes for Building Healthy Friendships

Friendships-count on me by Ares Nyguen
Flickr.com_photos/rsnguyen/8884956545_CC BY-ND 2.0
"Jonathan said to David, 'Go in peace. We have promised by the Lord that we will be friends...'" 1 Samuel 20:42a (ICB)

If you're joining us here from the Christian Children's Authors blog, welcome!

Helping our children build healthy friendships amidst the growing presence of social media can be challenging, especially children of Gen Y parents (born after 1981- early 2000's). According to a recent devotion I read, Gen Y-ers average 6 1/2 hours of daily Facebook usage. While their profiles brag of large "friend" totals, they rarely spend face-to-face time with their "friends".

Let's face it, virtual friendships are easier than "real" ones, but God calls us to true friendship. Consider God's relationship with Moses--the only man to see God. The Bible says, The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend, (Exodus 33:11). 

So, exactly how do we help our children (and ourselves) build real, face-to-face, healthy friendships? Here's my be-attitudes for building healthy friendships:
  • Be present. Limit social media especially when on a play date, family event, or extra curricular activity. Practice being present.  Rather than posing and posting every moment on social media, just live it and enjoy the moment. How many times do we miss the sheer joy of an event because someone wants us to "pose" for the camera.
  • Be friendly. Smile and say hello first rather than waiting for someone else to make the first move. Practice hospitality (Romans 12:13) by opening your home to your children's friends and their parents. What better way to make new friends and keep an eye on your kids at the same time?
  • Be inclusive. School yard cliques happen, like it or not. Break out of the pack and befriend someone new, different, outcast, or lonely. When you're a longstanding community member, it's easy for both parents and children to stay within the familiar friendship circle. However, there's always a new family or classmate looking for friendship. Pursue them and include them.
  • Be wise. While teaching our children to be inclusive, we also must balance that with a dose of wisdom. If a new friend invites your child to their home for a play date, birthday party, etc., make sure the home is a safe place. If its a party, ask if you might accompany your child or check with other parents whose children might attend. If it's a play date, request it be at your home (see "be friendly" above). Once they arrive, invite the parent in for a cup of coffee or just make small talk at the front door while your children go off to play so you might get to know them better. I've also been known to do a drive-by the day before to check out their neighborhood, if I was unfamiliar, just to make sure it was a safe place to let my child play. Instruct your child to trust their gut. If they feel uncomfortable in the friend's home for whatever reason, call for a ride home immediately.
  • Be loyal. No gossiping allowed! Like Jonathan and David, we all need someone who's "got your back" and will stick up for us through good and bad times. If we call ourselves a friend, then we offer our loyalty in their presence and absence. 
  • Be forgiving. People will disappoint us, but the Bible teaches us that love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). What a great lesson to learn early. No one is perfect and we will hurt one another's feelings, even if we love each other. Forgiveness is the key to building healthy, long-lasting relationships.
What would you add to the list? How do you foster healthy friendships in your home?

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