With the back-to-school season getting underway, parents have been working diligently to ensure their child has everything they need to get back to class. Unfortunately, in the busy scheme of things one essential element of our children’s lives can get overlooked: friendships. It is not just math and writing that our kids learn at school. They are also learning to make friends. But, do your kids understand how crucial it is for their development to have the right kind of friend?
Desiring God pastor, John Piper, says that we find joy when we are with others who love what we love (God) and, when we partner with those people to pursue God’s work in our lives and the world. So, how do we teach our kids to find those people that will fill their lives with joy?
What to look for in a friend?
When you or your child are seeking out new friendships it is important to be discerning. We can teach our kids the kind of qualities good friends have including one who puts God first.
A person who wants to please God and is obedient to His word are likely to influence our behaviors and choices in a positive way. We can examine whether or not they attend church services, whether they work to obey the commandments and how they treat others.
Another characteristic to keep an eye out for is a person who values their family. If they have shown the capability to love those they live with, and we know that isn’t always easy, they will be a loyal friend.
Your kids should also be able to step back and examine the motives of those people around them. Do these friends seem to enjoy our company? Do they use kindness when they are with us? Are they helpful? Do they offer us gifts or gestures that show us they care? And, most importantly, do they listen to what we say and respect our thoughts and feelings? This last one will enable us to better resist peer pressure.
If our kids are surrounding themselves with those who respect them they are less likely to get into trouble trying to prove themselves.
One example of good friends from the Bible that you and your child can study are David and Jonathan.
An important note for parents, Focus on the Family reminds parents that we tend to befriend those who have the same viewpoints that we do. Therefore, if your child is gravitating towards those who don’t share your values, that could be a sign your children don’t share your values either.
Tips for parents to shepherd their children’s friendships
While we can’t always control those our children befriend we can help them nurture the right kind of friendships. Here are some tips on how to encourage your kids to create lasting bonds with their peers.
- Selective extracurricular activities: Be wise about the out-of-school programs your kids are involved in. This is one of the best ways we can ensure our children are exposed to peers that will be a good influence on them. While it doesn’t have to be all church-related activities, parents should be strategic when selecting what their children will be involved in. For example, learning to play an instrument is a better choice than hip hop dancing for building a godly character.
- Befriend good parents: By finding some nearby parents who share your values and who have kids around the same age as yours, you can help your children make positive connections. You can start by inviting the friends or families over for get-togethers like playdates or dinner nights. Plan ahead and have some activities set up for the kids as they get to know each other to help guide playtime.
- Volunteer: helping community or religious organizations is a great way to open ourselves up to new people and friends. Often other volunteers are looking to meet like-minded people as well. They have demonstrated an interest in serving a good cause. Their efforts and influence is bound to wear off on your kids and help them be better people too.
- Be a good example: Have good friends yourself and talk to your child about what makes your friends valuable. You can also share with them stories of friendships that didn’t work out. Be honest about what happened – perhaps the friend was leading your down the wrong path?
Guiding our kids to make the right decisions in all aspects of their lives is a key role of parents. That includes helping them be selective in who they surround themselves with because, those people will influence their thoughts and choices.
As your kids head back to school help them learn what they should be looking for in their classmates and give them a great head start on building up their godly character.