8 Ways to Help Your Child Be a True Friend
By Rachel Greenawalt Keller
Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of God's best gifts. It involves many things, but above all, the power of going out of one's self, and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another. — Helen Keller
Having and being a friend is integral for every child. Quality friends provide emotional support, companionship, and love; stimulate growth; and enable a child to further develop social skills. No one enjoys being a loner. Even the Lord Jesus had his friends on earth–the twelve disciples with Peter, James, and John being his intimate friends.
While good grades and high intelligence help determine a child's pathway in life, being able to develop friendships may be just as crucial to future success. So how can you help your child develop productive friendships?
- Teach your child that the best way to make a friend is to be one. "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly" (Proverbs18:24).
- Help your child learn to communicate well. Does he know how to start and end a conversation? Is he comfortable approaching and greeting people, even those he doesn't know?
- Teach your child how to ask questions and take an interest in what others are saying. Remind him of the importance of eye contact. Observe your child carefully when in public or at church. Is your child relaxed when talking to others? Does he remember to smile, or does he seem stiff and distant?
- Purposely place your child in situations that will force him to use the skills he's been practicing. If your child is shy or uncomfortable in certain situations, role play those scenarios at home until he becomes comfortable with them.
- Explain proper etiquette. This includes etiquette while on the telephone, in writing letters, when at parties or social events, or when declining an invitation. Then role play these as well.
- Stress the importance of developing friendships not just to get but to enrich, inspire, and help another. Your child should give having no expectations of ever being repaid. Christ said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
- Teach your child to treasure his friendships, for they enrich his personality. "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel" (Proverbs 27:9).
- Teach him the importance of developing his friendship with his Creator. Jesus told his disciples, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you" (John 15:14).
An associate of President Lincoln once criticized him for his attitude toward his enemies: "Why do you try to make friends of them?" Lincoln gently replied, "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make them my friends?"