How often do you think about the importance of friendship to your sense of well-being? How often do you experience the joy of having someone call with a cheering word; run to congratulate you on a victory; or stay there for you when your mood remains surly and off-putting for days? How often do you do as much for yourfriends?
A true friend can bridge any gap and help you weather any storm. A true friendship that stands the test of time is a rare blessing—we all have colleagues, coworkers, associates, acquaintances, and family members, but how many of them really deserve the title of “true friend”?
Anyone who answers “none” probably hasn’t learned the old proverb attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” Too many of us grow up without ever learning to be a true friend. Parents: this needs to be taught to, and modeled for, your children, as they observe your interactions with them as well as with your adult friends and family.
Let’s look closely at three qualities of a true friend:
A good friend listens—with a capital L. True friends not only pay attention to what you are saying (which is exceptional enough in a world with more than its share of chatterboxes); they hear what is not being said, the needs hidden behind the verbal communication. True friends know when to advise you, when to correct you, when to brainstorm with you, when to be a sounding board for your ideas, and when to just keep quiet and let you talk. They care as much about your problems as you do, and they offer their resources freely toward solutions. Give your children the opportunity to observe this type of exchange; be a good listener with them, especially, and they will catch the habit from you.
A good friend is unfailingly trustworthy and loyal. We know that our true friends always have our back and will stand by us no matter what. When they share advice, they do it with your best interests in mind, never to criticize for criticism’s sake. Such a friendship is built on a history of shared experiences that bind us together and keep us connected. Children, as they mature, need to be encouraged to think about the needs of others and to anticipate how they can help. Discuss with them different ways they can demonstrate loyalty.
Lastly, friendships should be fun! With a true friend, you know it is safe to be yourself. There is a sense of comfort and spontaneity that comes with being understood, accepted, and loved. You feel better together than when you are apart; together you can have fun and find adventure anywhere. Make your children’s friends welcome under your roof, and model being a generous host.
Being a true friend is an honor and a privilege that each of us deserves. Teach your children the art of friendship!