Why Friendship is Important for Children
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” – C.S. Lewis
Friendships have a fascinating impact on our lives, some positive, and some negative. Friendships can motivate and can distract. As our kids head back to school (online or in-person), some kids are looking forward to seeing their friends and some are dreading the feelings of rejection. The pandemic has offered some new challenges for maintaining friendships, and the school year is compounding some of the challenges. Keep in mind that you may need to be creative in helping provide moments of connection for your child.
Take some time to come up with a list of ideas for connection this coming school year. This is a time for problem-solving together to help your child be connected with his or her friends. Loneliness continues to be on the rise, as well as boredom, so this is going to be an important and intentional task you take on with your family.
Listed below are the five reasons friendships are essential in your child’s life. Help your child understand the importance of choosing well when it comes to friends.
1. Friendships Build Beliefs
How have your friendships impacted you? What is a healthy friendship and unhealthy friendship? Beliefs are the driving engine to our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Friendships can have a profound influence on what we believe about ourselves and the world around us. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 22:24-25, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.”
Take some time to talk about ways friends have impacted your beliefs and ways friends have impacted your child’s beliefs. Friends can fuel internal and external action, but it’s important to understand in which direction (Proverbs 4:23).
2. Friendships Lead Us Toward Growth
The second reason why friendship is important is that it can lead us toward growth, connection, and personal improvement. On the other side of that coin, however, it can lead us toward personal destruction, emotional pain, and distractions if we are not careful with who we choose to be our friends. Friends influence our children within three core needs that we all are hard-wired to have.
Every person has three core needs:
A Sense of Belonging – Ask, “Do you feel like you belong or that you have to find ways to fit in with your friends?”
A Sense of Worth – You can ask, “Do you feel worthwhile when you’re with your friends, or do you have to find ways to make yourself feel worthwhile around your friends?” to be constantly guessing whether they care about you or not?”
A Sense of Competence – You can ask, “Do your friends build you up or encourage you, or do they constantly put you down?”
These three areas help a child discover their identity and will form a foundation for their identity and character. Some kids may think that rebelling or asserting independence means growth; however, it simply means eventual unhappiness, anger, disappointment. Ask your child, what do you see in this friend or these friends? How are they contributors or builders in your life as you are in theirs?
3. Friendships Give the Opportunity to Help Build Contributor Skills Rather Than Consumer Skills
Every relationship has some give and take. One of the reasons why friendship is important is that, as friends, our kids can contribute to the growth and encouragement of their friends. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 instructs us, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
Teaching kids how to be contributors in their friendships—helping each other in times of need, encouraging each other, and praying for each other—can help them form solid foundations for friendships and relationships later in life. Teach them to become aware of how their friends influence them and how they influence friends around them.
4. Friendships Can Encourage Our Walk with Christ
Have you ever had a good friend who was closer than a brother to you and challenged you to have a deeper relationship with Christ? Children, especially, tend to become like the people with who they spend time. If our kids are spending time with friends who are believers in the Lord, they will likely begin to grow in maturity in their relationship with Christ. However, if their friends are not followers of Christ, they may influence our children into wrongdoing and wrong thinking.
Ephesians 5:6-7 tells us, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them.” As parents, we need to encourage our children to forge strong friendships with fellow believers in Christ.
5. Friendships Can Pave the Way for Solid Relationships as an Adult
The way our kids see the world around them all starts with attachment as a baby. Newborns become attached to their parents as a matter of survival. If attachment with parents is interrupted, the child is at higher risk for adverse events later in their lives.
As babies grow into children, their attachment begins to shift from their parents to their friends. In much the same way as the bond with their parents, healthy attachment in friendships helps our children grow. These healthy attachments will also have an impact on all other relationships, including the relationship with their future spouse. If children do not form healthy friendships in their formative years, the odds of having relationship issues later in life significantly increase.
At Coastal Community School, creating friendships as part of our community is part of our core mission and values.
Originally published by Focus on the Family: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/back-to-school-why-friendship-is-important-for-children/
By Danny Huerta, PSYD, MSW, LCSW, LSSW. © 2020 by Focus on the Family and Danny Huerta.