How many friends do you have that you’ve known for more than five years? You can probably count them all on one hand, right? That is the norm and I’m no exception.
Unfortunately lives start to shift in direction: career, family, personal needs, etc. which usually offer some barriers that string certain friends along. Many of them end up getting lost in the realities of life and we don’t make much effort to continue to connect with them. Why it seems easier to relinquish a good bond, I don’t know that we will ever find that information out. I do know that there is hope to continue to value current friends, continue to value them, and teach children how to create life-long friendships.
As a child, I moved around a great deal and remember very few friends from elementary school. I do have two very close friends that I met in middle and high school and we stick together through thick and thin. It is the bond that I share with these friends that I want my children to have in their lives.
I think it is important to share with children opportunities to make friends. When my son was six months old, I started taking him to the library for story time. From this activity, we both gained valuable friendships. We also started participating in more activities and met other people. A few we really felt attachment to and continue to meet, to this day.
The biggest hurdle that I feel we’ve jumped as a family in conjunction with some great friends is our decision to homeschool. In having been a member of a playgroup that met once a week, every week of the year, it was very unsettling to realize once the older children were ready to start kindergarten that we just wouldn’t see them very much anymore. My oldest son wouldn’t have attended school with this group of friends, but I realized that he needed his friends as much as I needed mine and we have continued to meet particular families that shared interest during times that fit everyone’s schedule. We often meet after school on early release days and often on weekends for birthday parties or play time.
My son has always loved having people over and will often even ask to have particular friends over. When he asks for friends that he has known the longest, I give myself a pat on the back for helping create some friendships that he can value, working with parents and children to work together, and allow him to appreciate his friends. My oldest son is extremely extroverted and will approach kids at any playground to form a game of tag, or whatever it is that they are playing, but he still always asks about certain friends and jumps at opportunities to get together with other people.
Through our homeschool group, we’ve also been able to work with writing a pen-pal, which has been a positive experience for us. Not only does my son see that you can have long-distance relationships with people, but he also is learning to write well and can pinpoint where his pen-pal lives, incorporating some geography. He is slowly learning about his pen-pal, as we currently only write once a month, but we will have almost been in contact for a full year and my son’s face lights up when he sees the recognizable letters from his pen-pal in the mailbox.
To be honest, I think connecting with the homeschool group we have now is a great way for my family to form relationships with the entire family. Not only do my children have relationships with other people’s children, but we all get to know each other and can choose who we like to spend our time with. My son continues to ask for different friends to do different things with. He knows one friend is great for playing at the park, another for games. Much like adults do, we choose particular people that we need to share certain events in our lives.
Promoting valuable friendships isn’t easy. I think having children see their parents talk to their friends, make time to do things with their friends, and model behavior to help them make new friends is very important. I’m a fairly quiet person in a group, but strike up conversation as needed, or might pull someone to the side. My oldest son will just talk to any person ready and willing to participate and my younger son is more reserved. We work together and often unite to meet new friends and have them over to our place, a neutral environment to get to know each other and then branch out to do new things with new friends.
So far, this has worked for my family. I know being more quiet with large groups really tends to keep others from talking to me, but my children often will make friends with the adults and allow me to make easier connections also. It’s always easy to talk about your children!