I think that life is too tough to go through alone! Vital friendships help to provide the support system people need to thrive in life. To raise healthy kids, parents need to help teach characteristics of true friendships so that when the inevitable storms blow through our kids’ lives–as we know they will–the encouragement of friends can provide them with the help they need to survive.
When it comes to adolescents developing romantic relationships, the value and security of developing a solid friendship first, is often overlooked. As kids begin to gain interest in relationships with the opposite sex, they are typically drawn in by physical attraction, infatuation, and even peer pressure. While these factors will always exist, too often our kids ride a tide of romantic emotion, without much concern for the basic concept of friendship. You’ll do your kids a great favor by encouraging them to develop friendships first and by giving them the necessary tools to do so.
Perhaps the most important method for teaching your kids the value of true friendships is by role-modeling what it means to be a true friend in your own relationships. If you are married, I strongly suggest that you demonstrate openly the value of your friendship with your own spouse! Remember, your kids are watching and they are very likely to learn the meaning of friendship from your example.
Here are some proven principles that that build value into friendships. Pass these along to your kids by living them out in your own friendships!
1) Good communication. Lasting friendships are built on the principles of good communication. True friends open their lives to share their thoughts and feelings with one another. Friendships that stand the test of time find a balance and don’t dominate or refuse to participate in communication.
2) Be a good listener. I’ve said this before in many different settings, but it absolutely applies to friendships: listening is the language of love. To grow lasting friendships, learn to listen well.
3) Don’t manipulate. Yes, we need friends to thrive! Yet, when need turns to manipulation, friendships die. Manipulation shows up when friends become “clingy,” when they constantly seek to be pitied, or when they attempt to control another.
4) Be humble, on equal footing. People that know it all, are never wrong, lecture, condescend, patronize, or otherwise puff themselves up at others’ expense do not easily grow lasting friendships. Growing lasting friendships is the result of humility and treating one another equally–as peers–together on the journey of life.
5) Be caring and available. If you are frequently unavailable to friends, they soon get the message that you aren’t interested in maintaining the friendship. Nothing is more important than the gift of your time and genuine concern. Showing empathy for others is a sure way to grow true friendships.
6) Be encouraging. This doesn’t mean that long-time friends never disagree or argue. It does mean, that on the whole, you affirm and support your friends through encouragement. This sends the key message that they are important and that you believe in them!
7) Don’t compare. Some comparisons are inevitable and can be healthy, but constant comparisons, such as “Oh, you have such a quaint little backyard” or “Why do you keep that old cellphone that doesn’t do anything? Mine is so much better!” quickly wear on friendships.
8) Be willing to sacrifice. A lasting friend is one that walks the extra mile and can be depended upon even when it’s inconvenient.
9) Be loyal. The Bible says, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Loyalty is a key ingredient to true friendships and a trait that is sorely missing in our culture today.
10) Tell the truth. Nothing destroys friendship quicker than dishonesty. When trust is broken through the telling of lies, friendships are hard to maintain. Sometimes, telling the truth means being willing to admit your faults, or lovingly confront theirs, even when it hurts.
11) Forgive and Forget. This may be easier said than done, but lasting friendships are ones that “get-over” the hurts and offenses that are part of any relationship. If you want to grow a friendship that lasts, you must be willing to “forgive as the Lord has forgiven you” (Colossians 3:13).