Last weekend, I had a Zoom reunion call with about 30 people from my floor in my freshman dorm in college. Some of the people I hadn’t seen since freshman year. Others have woven in and out of my life at various times over the decades.
We were one of the most diverse groups of people you have ever met, but as we shared stories and memories, we realized what an impact those friendships from decades ago had on our lives. Some of the influences were little, like introducing us to new foods or musical groups. Others had us reconsider ways of thinking or influenced choices we made.
Your kids probably started making friends at very young ages. Those early friendships were primarily managed by you and the other parents through play dates. As your children grow older though, they will take the lead in their friendships. Some will be for a season, while others may last a lifetime. All will impact them in ways small and large.
As a Christian parent, you hope your kids choose friends who will help them grow and become their best selves. You pray for friends that will support their faith and beliefs. Are there things you should do as a parent to help guide your kids in their friendships? Are there things you should avoid? Here are eight of our best tips on navigating your kids’ friendships.
Talk about the qualities of great friends. These conversations will take different forms, but should occur periodically over the years. Ask your kids what they look for in friends. Talk about your friends and why you chose them. Share about friendships that helped you and friendships that hurt you. Remember, as much as you want your kids to choose good friends, you want them to be a good friend, too.
Be the host house. Make your house kid/teen friendly. You don’t have to own every toy and gadget. Often just the willingness to have them come over and feed a few extra mouths is a draw to your kids’ friends. It also helps if you can tolerate noise and have a sense of humor when things get a little silly.
Actively listen when your kids’ friends want to talk to you. Most young people don’t have enough adults in their lives willing to really listen to them. You don’t have to have all of the answers, just caring enough to listen and ask interested questions makes a huge difference to many young people. Plus it gives you glimpses of their hearts.
Ask your kids thinking questions. Don’t immediately give your opinion when your kids share something one of their friends said or did. Ask thinking questions instead. This is especially important if your child tends to react more than be proactive. What did your child think of what was said or done? How did they and others feel about it? What might it tell them about what the person is thinking or feeling? Some young people are more likely to reach an acceptable conclusion when you let them work it out instead of telling them. You just need to guide their thinking by asking questions that may not occur to them.
Teach being kind to everyone, but allow them to choose their closest friends carefully. Most young people don’t have what it takes to take someone making a lot of poor choices and magically turn them into someone who makes great choices. They shouldn’t, however, be unkind or exclude others from playground games or lunch tables. It’s okay for them to have friends who are kept close because they are supportive, kind and make consistently good choices.
Remind your kids they will often become like the people with whom they spend the most time. Because we were older, we were a little more qualified to pick and choose what we took away from our friendships in our dorm. Children and teens are not always that discerning. They need to think carefully if they want to be like the people in a friend group before they join it. Conformity is often expected and they need to be sure the group has norms with which they want to conform.
Avoid forbidding friendships. Often, parents who struggle with their own relationships with their kids believe their only recourse is to demand their child no longer spends time with a friend the parent doesn’t like. This almost always backfires. It either causes resentment and places additional strain on your parent/child relationship or your child goes behind your back and continues the relationship. Neither is a good outcome. Often, working to improve your relationship with your child will eliminate the need they may feel to choose friends they know will irritate or disappoint you.
Get to know the parents of your kids’ friends well. You don’t have to be friends with them, too. You do need to know, however, what sort of boundaries they set and enforce for their kids. This is especially important if your child will be spending time in that home. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I have heard over the years of kids being molested at sleepovers by a friend’s dad or given free access to inappropriate media, alcohol or drugs. Some kids will let you know when they have had a bad experience, but others won’t. Your kid will survive going to a “half” sleepover, rather than spending the night better than they will a traumatic incident. Most families are perfectly safe, but you won’t know whether or not your kid is safe until you know the parents.
Friendships in childhood and during the teen years can be a minefield. Staying involved, without controlling and micromanaging, can help your kids learn how to make friendships that will help them grow to be who God created them to be.
It seems like childhood revolves around gifts. Either your kids are receiving gifts or giving them to the endless stream of classmates with birthdays. As children being raised in Christian homes, you want your kids to avoid becoming entitled and materialistic. You want them to realize that even at very young ages, they can make a positive difference in the lives of others by reflecting God’s love to them.
An easy way to remind your kids to reflect God’s love is to teach them about the five gifts they can give to others every day. In fact, they can give these gifts multiple times each day, brightening the lives of those they encounter and helping them see how much God must love them, too.
To make it easier, each gift they can give is connected to one of the five senses. If your kids have trouble remembering, just tell them to remember the five senses and the attached gifts should come to mind.
Eyes. Give the gift of smiling with their eyes to others. There is something about a genuine smile from another that can bring a little light to the darkest of days. Why is this attached to the eyes? Because you can fake a smile on your lips, but a genuine smile is always seen in the eyes, too.
Mouth. Encouraging words. Encouragement is rare in our world. When your kids focus on using their mouths to encourage others, they will make a positive difference in the lives of everyone they encourage.
Ears. Listening ears are also a gift. Not the half listening that many people practice, but true active listening. Many kids have no one…not even a parent…who will really listen to them. Your kids don’t have to have all of the answers. Often just having someone really listen to them can make a positive difference.
Hands. Helping hands are becoming a rarity as people become more self absorbed. Are your kids quick to offer their hands when help is needed? A little help at the right time can be life changing or at least make the person’s day a little easier.
Nose. Okay, this one is a bit of a stretch, but for kids and teens, it too can prove extremely helpful. Can your kids develop a “nose for trouble”? Can they sense when a choice someone is about to make could have negative consequences the person hasn’t considered? Can they sense when someone is worried or having troubles? Awareness is an important skill set for a Christian who wants to serve others and share their faith.
If you want your kids to impact the world for God, have them start here. Giving these five gifts daily may be all God asks them to do. On the other hand, giving these gifts daily may be preparing them for other good works God has prepared for them to do. Since they have been practicing these gifts, they are more likely to notice and complete those good works when they appear, too.
Your kids are probably homeschooling now, regardless of their regular school situation. Contact with others outside your home is strongly discouraged. In most places though, we are still allowed to walk in our neighborhoods and do things in our yards as long as we don’t come close to others.
Your kids can use this time to reflect God’s love to your neighbors. There are quite a few things they can do to serve and encourage the people nearby. Encourage them to be creative, but here are some ideas to get you started.
Chalk sidewalk art. Send a neighborhood email and offer for your kids to decorate the sidewalk near their mailbox or their driveway with colorful chalk drawings. Remind neighbors to stay inside while your children work. If you have public sidewalks in your neighborhood, most localities allow chalk drawings which will wash away in the next rain. Encourage your kids to come up with cheerful designs that point people to God in some way.
Mailbox art. Have your kids make works of art and tape them to the mailboxes of neighbors. Once again, encourage the use of cheerful colors and finding ways to incorporate scripture or point people to God in some way.
Encourage a neighborhood cheer project for the kids in your neighborhood. Have your kids make fliers and distribute them in your neighborhood. Encourage neighbors to put a specific type of object like a stuffed animal or a drawing of a giant Easter egg in the window of their home where it can be seen by children taking walks with their families. Encourage the families with small children to go on a “treasure hunt” to see how many of the chosen objects they can see in the windows of homes while they are walking with their parents.
Design work out stations. Have your kids design a special workout families can do at certain spots on their family walk in your neighborhood. Space the ideas far enough apart and make them quick enough so families don’t risk exposure to the germs of others. For example, draw a hopscotch board with chalk on a corner sidewalk and tell families to hop rather than walk that distance. Or at a certain landmark, jump up and down ten times. Be creative and distribute the ideas to everyone in your neighborhood digitally or otherwise.
Share Spring. If you have flowers or shrubs blooming in your yard, share them with those in your neighborhood who can’t get out at all. Have your kids decorate containers to put the flowers in with a little water. Then put them on a doorstep of a neighbor, ring the bell and run far enough away to not spread germs when your neighbor opens the door.
Offer weekly check in calls. Have neighbors sign up to receive a weekly video call from your family. Encourage your kids to come up with stories to tell, a song to sing or other things to fill the time after making sure the neighbor is fine.
There are so many ways your kids can use this time to be creative in the ways they serve others and share their faith without endangering themselves or others. Take advantage of the opportunity to teach your kids how God wants them to live their lives.
Ready for Valentine’s Day? We are big celebrators in our family. Any excuse for adding a bit of fun, joy and love to our days and we are there! Valentine’s Day may have been founded to celebrate romantic love, but why not use it to teach your kids about agape love and have some family fun.
Agape love is the type of love God has for us and we are to have for those around us. It’s a higher love not based on attraction, romance or even friendship. It’s loving others just because they are human beings whom God created and loves.
There are a lot of fun things your family can do to spread some Agape love on Valentine’s Day. You should still have time to accomplish one or more of these before the holiday is over. (Because Valentine’s Day is on a Friday night this year, restaurants are “celebrating” on Saturday and Sunday, too. Let’s do the same!)
Shower widows, widowers and single people with love. There’s nothing like Valentine’s Day to remind you that you are single. No matter how happy someone single may be normally, everyone celebrating love can leave one feeling lonely and alone – even unloveable. Have your kids make cards, cookies or little baggies of those heart chocolates. Allow a few minutes to stay and visit. If necessary prepare your kids ahead of time about some things they can say to help the conversation.
Love on friends and “frenemies”. Every child has someone at school or in their activities who is less than kind to them. They may have even been treated by another child as an “enemy”. What a better way to teach your kids about loving their enemies than helping them prepare a Valentine surprise for their friends, but especially for those “not so nice kids”. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy. Having some discussions on the subject though can help your kids feel more loving as they give a card or treat to someone they may normally avoid.
See the “invisible” people. People with special needs, people who are socially awkward or “unattractive”, people who are poor…our world has lots of people that are unseen by others, because they don’t fit the mold of someone who makes a good friend or even acquaintance. Consider having some of the “invisible” people your family knows over for a meal or dessert. Or give them a Valentine’s treat and have a real conversation with them. Find out the things they enjoy doing. Get to really know them as “real” people with real stories. Make them visible to your family.
Thank the unappreciated. How many bus drivers, crossing guards, or maintenance people are ever thanked, much less receive Valentine’s treats? Even teachers can be forgotten. What about the mail carrier, the garbage collectors and the counter person at the dry cleaners? How many unappreciated people can your family make feel appreciated over the next few days?
Serve those who help others. Ministries and non-profits usually have ongoing needs for items or volunteer hours. Can your family find a way to give a ministry or non-profit some extra help?
Surprise your family members. Let’s be honest. The people in our family know how to get on our “last nerve”. Living in the same house can create conflicts and hurt feelings. We can say the worst things to the people who love us the most. Why not change that dynamic? Encourage everyone in your family to find ways to surprise, encourage and love everyone in your family. Make it fun and focus on all of those little things that would make life more pleasant for the people in your family.
Make Valentine’s Day a day when your family has a tradition of loving everyone they can. Encourage your kids to pour out love generously. Who knows, your family may enjoy it so much it becomes a habit every day of the year!
Scripture memorization is a great way to help your kids keep God’s words on their hearts and in their minds. Your church may not encourage your kids to memorize scripture. If you want your kids to know what God would want them to do without having to take the time to research, look up and read scriptures, memorization is key.
With so many possible passages, which ones should you help your kids memorize? Below is a list of some of the scriptures that can help your kids be who God wants them to be.
Some of the passages are only one or two verses. You will need to review these regularly in order for them to transfer to your children’s long term memories. Longer passages should do that automatically because of the number of repetitions they take to memorize.
Make sure your kids understand what they are memorizing. Explain to them how those verses can help them if they memorize them. Since memorization assignments at home are rare for non-homeschoolers, you may want to have ways to celebrate whenever they memorize passages.
The scriptures have been divided into categories to help you organize your memorization project.
1 Corinthians 13
Scriptures to Comfort
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Scriptures About Courage
2 Timothy 1:7
1 Peter 5:7
Scriptures About Behavior
1 John 1:8
1 Timothy 4:12
Scriptures About Our Heart
1 Peter 5:5
Scriptures About Family
1 Timothy 5:8
Scriptures About Friends (and Enemies)
1 Corinthians 15:33
1 John 4:7
1 Thessalonians 5:11
1 Peter 4:8-10
Don’t know these scriptures yourself? What a better family activity than memorizing them together? Having God’s words on the hearts and minds of your family will help all of you.