Friends. Regardless of what any human of any age, from any walk of life might say, they’re kind of a big deal. As parents, when it comes to navigating the waters of friendship with our children, it can seem like an even bigger deal. Outside of our relationships with our offspring, the relationships they forge with peers often prove to be the most influential. Many of us parents bring our own memories of being everything from last picked for recess kickball to being bully-like King or Queen Bees. All of our experiences tend to greatly shape how we want to get in, or possibly even avoid, the entire process with our kids.
In this age of mind-blowing technological advances, easy computer/device access, and social media, merely drawing personal relationship realities from our own growing-up years may prove to be a bit lacking. We may find ourselves having to add to our “how to make and keep the right friends” toolboxes. On the 21st Century side of things, it is wise to be as aware as possible of cell phone activity and any involvement your child may have on the internet. But as we stay in tune with the “friend” environment, a greater concern may arise in, “What should we be most concerned about when it comes to our children interacting with other people?”
I know some may be thinking, “Wait. Is this all there is now? I get that tweens and teens are ‘friending’ in some ways we parents didn’t. But, I have very young kids. What about them? In addition to that, what about all of the elements of friendship that don't involve electronics? Those still have to exist. Right?”
They do. And we know this because they exist in our own, “big people” relationships. Just as our children are unique individuals - some outgoing, some more reserved - the attributes of our human expression in developing friendships as adults are much the same. At times, the answers to the questions we have regarding the types of friendships our young make and keep, can be found in our own. As with all things parenting, modeling behaviors is a powerful thing. What kinds of friends do we have as parents? What kinds of friend making and keeping skills are little eyes watching us exhibit? Do we have healthy friendships? Do our kids observe us being good friends? Do we allow ourselves to enable adult friends? Do we allow ourselves to be pulled into full-sized drama? We love to roll our aging eyes at 12-year-old girls and their dramatic relationship antics, but sometimes we have to stop rolling our peepers long enough to understand that many junior high issues don’t always get resolved in junior high. One thing that I have discovered as a dad is that I can never give my kids something I don’t already possess myself. So, if my own, current inter-personal interactions with the people in my life don’t reflect healthy friendships, it makes it pretty hard for me to guide my children along their way.
What kinds of friends do you want your kids to make and keep? What kinds of friends do your kids want to make and keep? How can you be on the same page in this crazy digital world? Here are a few suggestions:
As a parent of now-grown children, I will have to say that there is another benefit of working hard to model healthy relationships for your young. After all of those years of committing to “being dad,” it is a joy to also now be “friend.”