Teaching Our Kids About Friendship (BM June 2 2016)

Untitled My daughter with her 2 godmothers, Liza and Princesse, whom today remain to be great friends and like sisters to me.

WE all view friendship in different ways.  Some depend on friends as an essential-support system in their daily life. Others view time with friends as their own personal “me” time to relax and reminisce. However you see it, it is enough to know that how we build and grow our friendships influence our child’s perspective as they embark on their own journey as a social being.

I grew up very close to my grand-aunt. She had three great friends and they always hung out together. One of them was her sister.  I remember going out with them often to eat out, visit other friends, even study a business opportunity.  I also saw how much they supported one another when my grand aunt underwent cancer treatment.

I saw this in my grandfather and dad, as well.   They both had longtime friends and we would see a lot of them on various milestones in our lives up to today.

In many ways, I realise how much my view of friendship has been influenced by what I was exposed to in my youth, and I have developed the highest regard for “rainy day” friends.  My dad would always say that genuine friendship is not about being there when things are happy; more important is being there for your friends when things are tough.

Building friendships take genuine effort and attitude. I shared this in my previous article, “Relate to Create”.  I see our lives as having many facets, and one of them is being a social being.  Friendships are part of this facet. For me, it is continuously nurturing my “circle of  trust.” I see this journey as a continuum.  It is a series of people, events and emotions that push me and love me for who I am.Below are some tips that I foster today for my kids:

Friendship starts at home, and trust is the base foundation. We are our kids’ first social relationship and we set the tone. This really helps when your kids get older. For as long as I can remember, I would listen to my kids talk about anything under the sun—from their favorite toy to their dream jobs and their interactions with their friends. I do the same. I tell them about my work, my friends and how I was as a child. I do this because I want to pave the way for my kids to see the house as their first circle of trust.

It is never too early to equip them with good values.  I try to instill self-worth and empathy early on. I want them to have an early sense of being firm on their beliefs.  Equally important, I hope for them to sense other people’s feelings and see the effects of their actions. I believe kids must see their friends as an extension of their circle of trust, and not as an escape from home.

When your child experiences highs and woes in their friendships, be there to guide. Kids today face more complexities in classroom interactions. They all come from different value backgrounds. There is more pressure to see friends as a source of approval, which may lead to peer pressure. Therefore, it’s important to be there to walk them through knowing themselves, accepting faults and finding friends who truly care.

Spend time with your child’s friends. I like organising play groups for my kids.  I actually prefer celebrating their birthdays this way.  Now that my daughter has transferred schools, I make sure she continues to spend time with her friends from her former school. In their last play group, we went to a pancake place to have breakfast. I asked them how they were, what they liked to do, and the conversation led to what they want to be when they grow up. I found the experience quite refreshing.

Create opportunity for your kids to spend time with your friends. Share your history.  Share the ups and downs. If your friends have kids, this provides an opportunity to create another set of friends for your kids.  This is also good because your friends can be there to see how your child grows and become your own support system for your daily parental dilemmas.

Friendships are not an arena for competition. Be mindful about comparing your children with their friends. It’s normal, of course, to praise academic achievements but I always believe each child brings something special.

And it is good your child and his or her friends can learn from each other.

Parting ways happens. As my kids get older, they need to know that as much as we work on friendships, there are some that may hurt, change and even end. Some come back, others become a memory.  They must learn to accept this and always be grateful for all the goodness the friendship has once brought to their lives.

I always believe that my depth of character comes from the depth I allow myself to be involved in my relationships. I believe that more than the time spent, it is my genuine wish for all of us to reach our self-actualization.

In turn, this allows me to be more open to foster new friendships to nurture and love. Friendships, new and old, have taught me that it is okay to laugh, fall and seek help. Thanks to all of them, I can truly say, “Friendship is truly a gift to give unconditionally.”

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