I am so lucky to teach preschool and see these darling little people forming some of their very first friendships. Some children are tentative and shy, but after a few weeks of being together it is such a joy to see them "open themselves up" and become active seekers of new friends.
Also I have had the opportunity to watch my own four children navigate the choppy waters of friendship during their middle school and high school years. Their relationships have been a constant reminder about how tricky friendships can be. So based on what I have observed through the countless numbers of friendships I have seen bud, blossom, and (if we are being honest) sometimes wither, I have come up with a list to help teach your child how to be a good friend. This is not always easy! But being a good friend helps your child understand what qualities to look for in friendships. And finding a good friend is truly a priceless blessing.
Parents: Teach these lessons to your children:
1. Friends Listen: A friendship cannot be one sided. If everything is about one person in the friendship than it is imbalanced and more of a groupie relationship than a friendship. Teach your child to listen to the viewpoints of their friends, and also have the confidence to speak their opinion on things.
2. Friends Defend: One of the most valuable aspects of a friendship is knowing that the other person "has your back". If you are unsure if your friend would defend you if they hear negative things about you, than you don't have a friend. And you are not a friend if you don't speak up and defend your friends against gossip and meanness.
3. Friends Share: My preschoolers will tell you about this all day long. They understand the concept of sharing but as children grow, it becomes less about sharing concrete items like toys and more about sharing their feelings with one another. If you are upset about something going on with your friend, you need to share the feelings and work it out. Friends also share the attention. It cannot always be about one person in the relationship. True friends value each other and share a balanced and healthy relationship. Good friends share happiness and sadness, together. If your friend has something good happen to them, you should celebrate with them. And conversely, if they are going through hard times, you need to be there for them. That is what true friends do.
4. Friends Forgive: No friendship is perfect. Friendships have their ups and downs, peaks and valleys, joy and hurt. True friends learn how to talk things out, forgive and move on. And the miracle is, making it through the rough times creates a stronger bond. When you come through a difficult time with someone, you enhance your relationship.
5. Friends Don't Inflict Pain: If a friend is constantly making you feel upset, bad about yourself, or less than, it might be time to look for some new friends. Relationships don't always work out, and sadly knowing when to move on can be a very difficult decision. Even though it is hard to imagine, there are other people who are eagerly awaiting to become your friend--you just have to look for them.
6. Be Your Own Best Friend: Liking yourself is important. Knowing who you are and what you stand for will allow you to find friends that compliment you and enrich your life. Trying to be someone or something that you are not, by being friends with someone just to be "cool" is never a good idea. People who like themselves have more authentic relationships because they are not based on trying to prove something to others.
These lessons are important but take a long time to learn. Discuss these issues with your children and help to coach them along their path to develop and keep long lasting and valuable friendships.