“We have to help our kids develop friendship skills, including self-evaluation, communication, choosing friends, maintaining friendships, resolving conflicts, and ending relationships. For example, to help with choosing friends and deciding whether to end a friendship, we can teach the difference between consistent character flaws and an occasional mistake in judgment.” (p. 99, Screens And Teens) (note #11, chapter 4: “To read more on this subject, see chapter 6 of my book Finding Authentic Hope and Wholeness (Chicago: Moody, 2005) or look for more information at www.ScreensAndTeens.com.”)
Relationships can be complicated and friendship has never been easy. Technology has added to the challenge so modeling healthy relationships and friendships is essential. So is talking about and even teaching the skills we use (or should be using). For instance:
Self-evaluation: Help your children identify any beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors that may be negatively affecting their friendships. For example, are they prideful? Do they crave attention and disrespect others when they “have the floor”? Are they so timid that others don’t approach them to begin conversations? Do they not know themselves well enough to confidently participate in a conversation or to not be negatively influenced by others?
Communication: Talk about making introductions, beginning and ending conversations well, and the role of eye contact, facial expressions, and body language. Talk about listening and talking respectfully, complimenting sincerely, and offering corrections (when appropriate) and not criticisms. Talk about asking appropriate questions.
Choosing friends: Let your children know what you hope they’ll look for in people when deciding whether they want to be their friend. Talk about advantages of having friends who are like us and friends who are not like us, but still good for us. For instance, positive character qualities, compatible goals/values, similar likes/dislikes, shared hobbies and interests
Maintaining friendships: How do you maintain friendships? What have you done and not done that has allowed you to have relationships and friendships with people over time? How have you decided who to invest in for the long haul? Do you help them achieve their goals? Give them space to develop their own interests? Respect emotional, relational, physical, and moral boundaries? Keep confidences? Deal with conflicts quickly so they don’t escalate? Recognize whether a difference is based on something minor (likes/dislikes) or major (morals/ethics)? Share your insights with your children, especially when you see them giving up on people too quickly.
Resolving conflicts: Authentic friends want to resolve issues in respectful, mutually beneficial ways. To do this, confront issues sooner rather than later and deal with the attitudes involved, not just the behaviors. Learn to make a sincere apology and learn to forgive.
Ending Relationships: At Celebrate Kids, we believe if a friend consistently demonstrates unacceptable character qualities, attitudes, or behaviors, it is appropriate to end the relationship. This should be done respectfully. Clearly state the reason for ending the relationship and stick to your decision while leaving the door open to reconciliation if positive changes occur.