Cultivating and Keeping Friendships
Friendship is one of the most important aspects of human behavior. We thrive in community with one another. Whether it’s caring for a sick neighbor or just sitting down for a quick cup of coffee between errands with a fellow homeschool mom, we need friends.
A few years ago, our youngest son began to develop a friendship with several young men who were a grade or two ahead of him. I wasn’t concerned a the time because we were still several years from graduation. These young men spent many nights at our house and ate many meals at our table.
As their brotherhood solidified, so did the realization that my son was the youngest and would be facing his junior year without the majority of the friends in his circle. That became a reality this fall as we began his academic year; one that’s a little quieter than previous years. The energy is, well, different.
Does this sound familiar? Do you see a challenge like this looming in your child’s social circles? Not sure what to do? Let’s look at our teen’s relationships, potential causes for lost friendships, and confidence moving forward.
Build Quality Friendships
When our children are young, we have the ability to choose the people they spend time with. We are able to closely monitor and hand-select their playdates. As our children mature, we still have an obligation to guide social choices, but they will ultimately be the one to further develop close friendships.
While they are still under your guidance, encourage your children to seek friends who share common interests like academic goals (college, trade school, internships, etc.), sports, hobbies, or religious activities. Common threads of interest will give depth to the roots of a relationship and foster the strength to withstand challenges like geographical distance or the end of the scholastic year. As our teens move closer to becoming adults, the ability to seek out and embrace quality, personal relationships is significant.
As you already know, not all friendships last forever. Sometimes your BFF is a BFForASeason. For your teen, long-lasting friendships can be a challenge for a host of reasons. Often, the thing that sparked the relationship in the first place can cause the friendship to dwindle. For example, if your teen enjoys spending time with a student in a community welding class, once the class has ended, the opportunity to see them on a regular basis also ends. For a friendship to continue to grow, continual effort and attention must be given from both parties.
Sometimes, a disagreement festers and friendships are lost. This is particularly painful if apologies have been made, but the relationship is not easily repaired. As parents, this is one of the hardest emotional struggles to watch our children experience.
Conflict resolution and the skills needed to do it well are mastered with maturity over time. Acknowledging the offense, accepting responsibility, asking for forgiveness, and then honoring the other person’s feelings are steps toward resolving a conflict that take time to champion.
Another consideration is the eventual distance that occurs when there is a difference in grade levels. In the case of our son, his friends graduated and moved on to college, leaving him with a feeling of emptiness as he entered his junior year. As a homeschool mom, I fully embraced the benefit of being with students of all ages. It was one way we taught our children to be well rounded, and even in this case, it’s an important part of growing up.
Regardless of the reasons for a lost friendship, don’t be discouraged. Remind your child that we live our lives in seasons. Elementary school, church youth group, high school, marriage, and becoming parents are all seasons. Friends are made along the way and some of those will only be for a season.
Encourage your teen to be a man or woman of character as friendships fade. Be sure to make apologies where needed, and make an effort to stay in communication with friends who move away. Even tiny gestures of kindness are signs of a good friend.
Our house is still full of boys on any given weekend. Laughter can be heard billowing down the hallway. Sometimes the laughter is familiar and sometimes from new faces. We do miss old friends but know that because of the way each relationship was cultivated, we will see them again!