words by nerissa

…observations, thoughts and questions

‘Love them in your heart’ — the art of friendship

Life is better with friends

How many Facebook friends do you have? Do you even know? Are you even on Facebook?

Now I’ll ask you a different question. How many REAL friends do you have? I’m tipping the answer to that question is significantly smaller than the number of Facebook friends you have.

Friendship initially seems like such an easy, simple, pleasant concept. People are either your friends, or they’re not.

However, recently in our house, we have been having discussions with our kids about what REAL friends are, and it’s proving to be quite an important topic.

Some of the concepts we have discussed include:

  • Real friends look after you
  • Real friends can be honest with you, even if it means they might hurt your feelings
  • Real friends try not to hurt your feelings when they are being honest with you
  • Real friends want the best for you
  • Real friends, can be jealous of you, even if they try really hard not to be
  • Real friends speak kindly, not rudely
  • Real friends can say things rudely without meaning to
  • Real friends can be good friends without having to play with you, see you and talk to you ALL the time
  • Real friends can like different things to you
  • Real friends try to be friendly all the time, even if they don’t want to spend time with you at that moment
  • Real friends make you feel good about who you are
  • Real friends understand when you don’t want to do the same things as them
  • Real friends take turns (e.g. let each other share the decision of what they are going to play, etc.)
  • Real friends stick up for you when others are being mean (or at least try to)
  • Real friends are there when you need them NO MATTER what.

I’m sure all of you, having navigated the friendship pitfalls of childhood and adolescence, have a reasonable idea on what friendship is. After all, hindsight is a great teacher.

I mean, it is now very obvious that certain people who were my ‘friends’ at primary school, only seemed to be extra friendly leading up to their birthdays. Hmmm. Not true friends.

And those people who always seemed to have a jealous or cutting remark when I achieved something, were not REAL friends. Real friends may have felt jealousy (after all we are all human), but would never have cut me down in that way.

There was also a girl, who was extremely friendly when our parents were around, but at any other given moment, was a nasty piece of work. Definitely not a true friend!

However teaching your own kids about friendship is a different matter entirely.

During these discussions with my kids, many questions about friends have been asked.

  • Why do kids say mean things?
  • Why doesn’t so-and-so like me?
  • How many best friends do you have (meaning me)?
  • When do you know you have a best friend?
  • How do you get a best friend?
  • What is better — having one best friend or lots of good friends?
  • Do you have to have a best friend?
  • How can you and so-and-so be friends, if you don’t see each other a lot?

While I do my best to answer them, an answer always seems to lead into another question.

However, I have concluded that we can’t really teach kids about friendship. Nor can we create friendships for them. Sure, we can help facilitate the friend-making process by organising play-dates, parties and sleepovers, but it is really up to the individual children whether they choose to be friends or not, and how close that friendship is going to be.

Rather than teaching, I think our role is showing our kids what friendship can be.

For example:

  • Some people are your friends for life, no matter where they live, what they do, or how often you see them
  • Some people are your friends simply because you share a common interest, sport or hobby
  • Some people are easier to talk to about certain things than other people. This doesn’t necessarily make them better or worse friends, just different
  • Some friendships last for a short-time, until life circumstances come along to change that (i.e. moving away, going to different schools, or simply growing apart)
  • Some friendships are forged quickly and others grow and change more slowly
  • Some friends are easier to be around than others
  • You may ask some friends for help but not others
  • You can consider some people closer friends than others
  • Sometimes family members can be your friends
  • Sometimes friends can do the wrong things, but if they are truly sorry, (or ‘love us in their heart’, as my daughter puts it), we can forgive them and still be friends.

While there are no hard and fast rules about friendship, there is one thing I believe to be true —

—     You have to be a good friend to have a good friend.

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