Friends make life better
Meaningful friendships are one of life’s greatest gifts that make our existence even more worthwhile. I can identify with CS Lewis when he wrote, “Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself.”
Ever since my children were little, I remember thinking about what I could do to foster friendships between the two of them. The bond between siblings can be slightly tricky. I know. My sister and I were pretty close as young kids but drifted far apart during our teen years. When I became a mom, I realized that sibling friendships don’t just happen, they need to be cultivated. This discovery set me on an interesting aspect of my parenting journey. Sibling rivalry can really wear a parent down, but sibling friendship brings joy to any parent’s heart.
Being a mom or dad is a 24/7 responsibility. Early one, my husband and I decided to be intentional are we raised our kids. They know that they are loved and that their mom is far from perfect. I’ve made loads of mistakes, but I‘ve also learned how to apologize and ask for forgiveness. The one thing I remember intentionally doing from when they were very young was fostering friendship between the two of them.
Cultivating the sibling friendship started by me speaking that over them regularly. It then progressed to them being enrolled in activities that would boost the bond between them. Now at 18 and 16, I see them laughing and teasing one another – don’t get me wrong. We’re a pretty average family with teens, and we have our moments, but for the most part, they are firm friends.
How did I foster friendship between my children?
- From early on, I taught them what being a friend was like and tried to model it for them.
- I spoke words of friendship words of encouragement about the one to the other. For example, “Your brother is a great friend to you. You can have such fun running around the garden with him.”
- Words are powerful and so I told them that I wanted them to be friends with each and that brothers and sisters can be friends.
- I encouraged activities they both could enjoy. For example, enrolling them in golf lessons and from time to time we played a together. I told them that when they were adults, they would struggle to play a game of rugby or hockey together, but wherever they were in the world, they could meet up for a round of golf. It could be tennis or any family activity that builds friendship or unity such as games.
- I prompted them to share their toys. They even shared a double bunk bed until my eldest was 15 (by choice, even though they had their own rooms).
- I fostered mutual respect, fun, and understanding.
- We prayed for them to be friends with one another, asking the Lord to give them a love for each other.
We didn’t compare or pit them against each other, rather we reinforced each child’s individuality, and how thoroughly loved each one of them is. No one person should or could meet all of our needs. Over the years, I’ve learned that we have several types of friends in our lives, each serving a different purpose. Encourage your kids to develop a diverse range of friends (incidentally its good for you too).
Diverse types of friends make life even better
Our lives are richer when we encourage our children to enjoy a variety of different friendships. This goes beyond being sibling friends. Teach your children about the various types of friends, such as loyal friends, an honest confidant, a supporter. Encourage cross-cultural friendships or even with someone who is the polar opposite to them. Then you get the friends who are fun and you spend most of your time playing with them. You also get those friends that you can go deep with or ones that you learn from, like a mentor. Yet still, there are friends that challenge us to grow or even someone who is adventurous. Finally, you get a friend that inspires you and could call you to something more, to a life of purpose.
Foster sibling friendships through being intentional and then train your children to explore meaningful friendship as your raise them. “The strong bond of friendship is not always a balanced equation; friendship is not always about giving and taking in equal shares. Instead, friendship is grounded in a feeling that you know exactly who will be there for you when you need something, no matter what or when,” wrote author, Simon Sinek
Download this free printable and stick it up in your home to encourage friendship between your children.