“I got a new toy for my birthday,” Jack said to a couple of kids standing in front of him, “Want to see it?” The other boys didn’t answer. Without a word, they just kept talking. Jack turned and walked away…
“Give me my toy back!” Naomi exclaimed, “It’s mine; I want it back!” “You told me I could look at it,” Mia stated, “I’m still looking at it.” Naomi reached to pull her toy back into her possession. Mia resisted, and an angry tug-of-war followed…
Tyson and Britney ran up to the swings at the park and each eagerly climbed onto a waiting swing. “Push me, Dad!” Tyson called to his father. Britney mockingly giggled, “I can’t believe you still need someone to push you. Pushing is for babies. I know how to do the swing all by myself.” Tyson sadly looked down at the ground…
The three scenes described above are enough to break your heart. Sadly, they are more than likely not unfamiliar to you. We have all been exposed to similar scenes in our lives. We may have even experienced them ourselves, or worse, watched our children suffer through them. Friendship is one of the most amazing things we can have in this life. Friends are, without question, a precious gift and something to be grateful for. They are something we fervently pray that our children would have.
How To Help Your Children With Friendships
Yes, we long for our children to have friendships. And yet, a sad dichotomy exists within friendship. Creating on one end some of life’s greatest blessings while on the other causing some of life’s most difficult and painful experiences. Why is it that our peers possess the ability to create within us equal amounts of happiness and hurt? And how is your child supposed to navigate the tumultuous journey that friendship can be?
Thankfully, we have been given the Word of God. It is the perfect place to turn to for help in equipping our children to navigate the friendship concerns they will inevitably witness or experience in this life.
Why are there so many problems with friendships?
The first thing to understand about friendship concerns is the why: why are there so many problems in friendship? The answer is actually similar to why so many problems can exist in a marriage: friendship, like marriage, involves sinners. Your child’s current friends…the kids they want to become friends with…even your child…are all sinners.
If we were all perfect, then we’d all be perfect friends. There would never be any problems in friendships (wouldn’t that be nice!). Now even though that’s sad to hear, there’s good news too. There are tools that can help your kids to deal with the problems of friendship. We can also teach them how they can be the kind of friend God would want them to be.
Tools to help your child grow in friendship
What are these friendship tools, you ask? At first, they are going to seem obvious, but that doesn’t make them any less valid or effective. The first tools you need for dealing with friendship concerns are prayer and the Word of God. As Christian parents, it should be our goal to point our children to the effectiveness and power of God’s Word in all of life’s situations.
We want to help them to learn to use God’s Word as the first place they turn to when faced with struggles. This will be one of the most valuable things you ever teach your children. On either side of a friendship problem, as recipient or instigator (because, yes, that will happen), hearing what the Bible has to say about it and praying for God’s help are crucial elements. The Bible is how you teach your child how to be a good friend. It also shows them how to respond when someone is not a good friend to them.
How Do I Help My Child Develop Better Friendships?
Even as children, the list of friendship problems is long. Sharing, unkind words, being left out or ignored, manipulation, bullying, jealousy, embarrassment, shyness, rejection, and the list goes on. Some of these problems can be pretty heavy to bear, especially for children. The one thing they all have in common, however. They are all byproducts of sinful hearts or sin in this world, which is where the Word of God comes in.
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God’s Word has something to say about all of these sins. It doesn’t mean all the problems will go away. But the Word of God will equip your child with the tools to be a good friend and to forgive when their friends fail them. It will also expose them to what they themselves are supposed to be as a friend.
How To Help Your Child With Friendship Issues
Being a good friend is not always easy, especially when your children are on the receiving end of the hurt. Prayer is an amazing, and sadly underutilized, tool at our disposal. Our children should learn at a young age to run to their heavenly Father with their hurt and their pain.
The depth of God’s love is enough to cover even the most unthinkable agonies in this life, but it must be cultivated. Similarly, when our child has an area of friendship with which they personally struggle, helping them to acknowledge it and bring it to the Lord for help in their sanctification teaches them to be accountable for their actions towards others.
A Valuable Friendship Resource
A great way to teach your children about common friendship problems and what God’s Word has to say about them is a letter-writing “pen pal” series called “Dear Faith: The Friendship Letters”. The series focuses on a character named Faith Walker – a regular kid with the same friendship problems that all kids experience. She “writes” letters to your child about a wide range of friendship problems that children encounter and shares with your child what she’s discovering God’s Word says about each one. Your child can even write a letter back to her, putting into words some of their own insights and struggles.
Some of the friendship problems covered are sharing, unkind words, being ignored, bullying, manipulation, jealousy, gossip, peer pressure, and more.
In addition, she shares some friendship advice with your children, like choosing your friends wisely, being the kind of friend you want to have, remembering that God made you exactly the way you are, and remembering to be like Christ.
Each letter topic includes a specific Bible verse for dealing with that issue, as well as prayer pages to seek God’s help in getting through each struggle. Those prayer pages can be kept together with an included cover in a “Book of Friendship” keepsake your child can turn to again and again because, sadly, they will more than likely encounter these friendship problems more than once this side of heaven.
A Friendship Theme
A good “theme” verse to have in your child’s heart for any friendship concern is Matthew 7:12:
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
The wisdom found in this verse alone can be used to cover just about any friendship problem your child will ever encounter. Faith actually uses this verse in her closing letter at the end of The Friendship Letters. It’s some advice we all could learn from…no matter our age. She writes:
“Friendships really come down to loving others. If we’re treating others in love – as we would want to be treated – then we will not be the cause of these friendship problems we’ve talked about. And if these things are being done to us, we’ll be able to extend love and forgiveness as our response. It’s not easy, but it’s what we have to keep working on, no matter how old we are.
Here is one final prayer for you:
Help me to love others and to treat them how I would want to be treated. May I not sin against my friends, and may I extend forgiveness when my friends sin against me. Amen.”
Maybe I’ll hear from you again some time. That’d be pretty cool!
Final Encouragement to Help Your Child Navigate Friendship
No, we aren’t going to be able to shield our kids from experiencing the hurt that comes with friendship in this sinful world. We can’t protect them from even being the cause of it themselves from time to time, but the best thing they can do when they are struggling with friendship is to realize who they are in Christ and His love for them.
When they hurt others, they will know to seek forgiveness and change. When others hurt them, they will know that they are forever valued by their heavenly Father and because of His great love for them, will also be able to extend forgiveness to others. We want good, Christlike friendships for our children, so let’s be intentional about training our children to be that kind of friend themselves. Let’s flood this world with them!
30 Days of the Best Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms Series Contributor:
Cindy Voss and Michelle Jansma of Keepsake Curriculum are a mother and daughter team dedicated to helping homeschool families find encouragement and resources as they homeschool their children. Our children are a heritage from God, a keepsake we must hold on to and train “in the fear of the Lord.”