Best Friends Forever – Not
By Beth K. Vogt
I taught my children how to dress themselves and how to pick up their toys. How to read and how to complete their homework. How to load a dishwasher and how to make their beds. All necessary life skills, wouldn’t you agree?
My four kiddos learned lessons along the way as they wrestled with buttons and blocks, words and word problems, dirty dishes and dirty sheets. But the more challenging lessons came when my children navigated the complicated ups and downs of friendships.
Children approach friendships with the trusting innocence of youth, trading promises of forever friends – or BFFs, Best Friends Forever. Toddler play dates morph into pre-teen sleepovers.
Life is good.
And then – something changes. Your daughter’s close friend trades BFF bracelets with the new girl in class. Your son’s best bud moves away. What was oh-so-good causes your child sleepless nights and endless tears.
When my children were hurt by their friends, my first reaction was to go on the defense. But I learned this isn’t the time to become my son or daughter’s defensive line-mom, blocking them from the pain. Rather, I needed to embrace my child, helping him or her work through their feelings. I said things such as:
“I know it hurts that Lori hangs out with Maggie now. I know you miss her.”
“I remember feeling lonely when my best friend moved. I know sending Andrew an e-mail isn’t the same as seeing him every day at school.”
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to teach your child a more difficult, but valuable life lesson – one they’ll need to remember through their teen years and well into adulthood.
Don’t deny that losing their friend isn’t sad or hurtful or disappointing. But while you comfort your child, tell them that sometimes people or circumstances change – and you can’t prevent that from happening.
No doubt you’ve experienced both the joy of beginning a friendship and the sorrow of a friendship ended. Our children learn how to handle changes by watching us. The principles that guide our relationships apply to our children’s relationships too.
Forgive others – Remind your child that Jesus tells us we are to forgive those who hurt us. (Colossians 3:13)
Celebrate friends – As a military family, I helped my children learn how to say goodbye to their friends. It was never easy, but I tried to insure their tears were laced with smiles and some special “goodbye” memories, even something simple like a one-last-time-trip to the ice cream shop.
Be compassionate – My children learned to say, “There’s always room for one more,” a reminder to never exclude another child – and to look for someone sitting by themselves at lunch or recess. How can you teach your child to be compassionate to others?
Beth K. Vogt and her husband experienced a double-dose of parenthood – three children in their 20s and a surprise fourth in their 40s. The author of “Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35,” Beth edits Connections and is a consulting editor to MOMSense Magazine.