Above: Long time online friends finally meet IRL, Christie and Cath. Photo: Danimezza
This post is by regular contributor Cath Oehlman aka Squigglemum.
~ To have a friend, be a friend.
~ Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver the other gold.
~ The best mirror is an old friend.
~ A friend is one who walks in when others walk out.
As parents we spend a lot of time in the early years teaching kids how to make friends. We teach our toddlers how to share their toys. What it means to play fair. How to take turns. We tell our children to be kind, say sorry when they’re wrong and forgive others. We lovingly guide them and gently discipline them when necessary in order that they might be able to make and maintain friendships on their own by the time they reach the school playground.
But the truth is – it doesn’t matter what we say to our kids, if it isn’t what we do ourselves. We are role models, and there are little eyes and little ears taking in more than perhaps we realise. I’m reminded of a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Sometimes our actions speak so loudly that people cannot hear what we say.” It’s food for thought.
Consider how you handle the following situations, and take a moment to reflect on what your kids might be learning from the example you are setting:
- Making new friends. Do you introduce yourself to others? Do you initiate conversation? Can you make polite small talk, and ask questions which help others to share?
- Maintaining friendships. Do you care for your friends by taking them a meal when they’re sick, or babysitting their kids? Do you pick up the phone just to say hi? Do you support them when life is tough? Do you forgive and forget?
- Groups of friends. Do you accommodate everyone’s situation? Do you make an effort to ensure each member of the group is included? Do you avoid gossip?
- Long distance friends. Do you stay in touch via phone, skype, emails or snail mail? Do you send cards at Christmas and for birthdays?
- BFFs. Not everyone has a bestie, and that’s ok. If you do – do you treat them as an honorary member of the family? Do you prioritise time together? Do you share laughter, tears, heartaches, hard truths and honest opinions, as well as coffee?
Over the years friendships change. Some new friends become deep friends. Sometimes long term friends move interstate or overseas and become long distance friends. Sometimes groups of friends drift apart. Sometimes BFFs fall out. As our adult friendships go through these changes, it’s important that we realise our children are watching.
I must admit that I wouldn’t score myself highly on all of the above. I miss friends terribly when they move away, but struggle with maintaining long distance friendships. I worry that this is a time when my actions speak louder than words, and perhaps my children will get the message that we only care for people who live close!! Where do you struggle? Are there any messages your children might pick up as a result?
Life isn’t always simple, but the road is travelled more easily with friends by your side. If we want our children to have friends in their life, perhaps the best thing we can do for them is to walk the talk ourselves.