This is one post series I never thought I would have to write. I remember having friends throughout my life. Some relationships were stronger and healthier than others perhaps, but I don’t remember particularly struggling to meet people and become friends with good, kind girls and guys.
Maybe it’s technology, maybe it’s because most children today are left to their own devices with little adult supervision or real interaction the vast majority of the time or maybe it’s because they are over scheduled, but today’s children have lost the art of making real friends.
They struggle to meet new people. They aren’t sure how to change an acquaintance into a friend. They aren’t sure how to have a meaningful conversation with each other when they are together. They lack the self-confidence to be true to their core beliefs and walk away from friendships that are unhealthy. They have plenty of Facebook friends and hundreds of followers on Instagram, but have no one to share their problems and concerns with they can trust. They are lonely and alone.
On an average day in the U.S., 5400 teens attempt suicide (Jason Foundation). In 2014, 2.8 million U.S. teens had at least one major depressive episode (NIMH). Fifty-eight percent of high school seniors are drinking alcohol regularly and over ⅓ of them are smoking pot regularly (NIDA). Loneliness is a risk factor, causing teens to resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms and agreeing to do unsafe things in an attempt to find friends.
Christianity is built on relationships. The Church is a place where Christians use their relationships with each other to encourage each other to lead godly lives and do the good works and faith sharing God wants from them. Relationships are also necessary if Christians are to serve others effectively and share their faith. Strong Christian homes are built on a foundation of a strong friendship between a husband and wife. If your children struggle making friends, they will struggle with these important aspects of living a Christian life as well.
Your child may need your help in learning how to make friends. If you don’t make new friends regularly yourself, your child can’t watch what you do when you meet new people. They may actually need for you to teach them each specific skill and help them master it. Even kids who have lots of acquaintances, will need your guidance in choosing and developing a few key friendships that will help them navigate life successfully. All kids need help in knowing how to make godly friendships – finding those people who will support and encourage them to obey and serve God.
In tomorrow’s post, I will break down some of the necessary friendship skills your child needs to conquer the friendship dilemma of their generation. In the meantime, talk with your kids today about their friends. Who are their friends? What do they do together? What do they talk about when they are together? Do they mainly interact by text or are there regular conversations? Do they have people they can actually count on to have their backs? Can they tell you what their three “best” friends like and don’t like? What worries them? How they feel about some of God’s commands?
Be aware of the “I’m telling you what you want to hear” and the “yes, sure” syndrome when talking with your kids. Often kids will tell us what they think we want to hear. There are some signs though, your child may struggle a bit in the friendship area. If you walk your child into school, particularly his/her classroom, do several children immediately break into smiles and look excited your child is there? Or is his/her existence barely noticed? If you surprise your child at school during lunchtime is he/she happily chatting with one or more children or is he/she sitting a bit apart and not interacting? When you suggest taking another child with you or having a birthday party, can your child immediately think of at least one friend they would like to invite? Does your child talk about friends at home, as in so and so said such and such today?
Even if your child is extremely shy and introverted, he or she should have one or two close friends. Extroverts are more likely to have a lot of acquaintances, but they should have at least one or two really close friends. All kids will have brief “lonely spells” when the ups and downs of hormones, immaturity and a hit to their self-esteem may make them feel like they have no friends. If those spells seem to last more than a couple of weeks though, there is some sort of issue that needs to be addressed and sooner rather than later. Helping your kids learn how to find and develop godly friendships will help them walk away from the many temptations of the teen and young adult years. It’s an insurance policy you need to help them learn how to put in place.