‘I’ll be there for you,’ said the Rembrandts.
Randy Newman and Woody assured us, ‘You’ve got a friend in me!’.
And let’s not discount the sweet sentimentality of Andy Grammar’s ‘Captain Underpants’ anthem, ‘Friend Like You’, with bold statements of ‘Dude, I love you! Bro, I love you! Man, I love you! You’re my homie, no one knows me like you do!… What would I do without a friend like you?’
The role and importance of a friend, a good friend, is undeniable. They are our port in the storms of life, our cheerleaders, our confidantes. They’re our backup and support and they’re even the voice of reason when we need it most. Good friends and good relationships are crucial to the journey of life.
In the book of Proverbs, there is no shortage of wisdom regarding GOOD FRIENDSHIPS:
Proverbs 27:17 – As iron sharpens iron, one friend sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:9 – A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.
Proverbs 17:17 – A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for times of adversity.
Proverbs 13:20 – Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.
And then there’s the wisdom of NOT-SO-GOOD FRIENDSHIPS:
Proverbs 18:24 – There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 16:28-29 – A bad person spreads trouble. One who hurts people with bad talk separates good friends. A person who hurts people tempts their neighbour to do the same, and leads them in a way that is not good.
Proverbs 20:19 – A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers.
Proverbs 13:20 – Whoever walks with wise people will be wise, but whoever associates with fools will suffer.
These biblical truths clearly identify the complex and confounding nature of the relationships we have. It’s little wonder that relationship and friendship woes are such a prevalent theme with our children.
As our own experiences tell us, schoolyard friendships are tricky things. Some people bond instantly over crayons and fingerpainting and make friendships that last a lifetime. Others struggle to connect and don’t meet their ‘people’ until they leave school. Yet others take a ‘revolving door’ approach to friendship and have a dramatic series of lunchtime breakups/makeups.
The relationships our children engage in are foundational in their lives and have the capacity to both support and encourage, as well as devastate and destroy. By investing in the building of healthy, positive relationships, we build discerning, healthy humans. In fact, quality relationships are a key predictor of well-being, particularly in Middle School students. As parents, caregivers and the school community, our obligation is to the tiny (and not so tiny) humans in our care. Our collective responsibility is to be the example and to give them the tools they need to thrive in the 21st century and become whole, healthy humans who will carry the mantle to the next generation. By giving our kids the cornerstones they need to forge positive relationships, we create lifelong learners who will be able to foster good connections wherever life takes them.
So, what are the ideas we can instil in our kids, in order to encourage positive relationships?
Here are seven signs that a friendship or relationship is positive:
- RESPECT & TRUST: Each person is a unique and wonderful individual, created by God. We don’t have to agree with each other all the time, but we should be able to respect each other’s differences! You can rely on your friends! You feel safe! They don’t sell you out or manipulate you. They care about you and your feelings.
- COMPANIONSHIP: You like hanging out together and doing things together! It doesn’t matter what you do, just that you can do it together.
- OPEN COMMUNICATION: You’re able to say what you think and feel. You don’t have to hide or pretend when you have a positive relationship. Talking about tricky and uncomfortable things is ok.
- MUTUAL SUPPORT: Supporting each other is how you roll! You are excited about opportunities and when good things happen and you commiserate and console when things don’t go well.
- MUTUAL BENEFIT: This relationship is actually good for both parties. A positive relationship is balanced and each person benefits.
- POSITIVE EMOTIONS FOR BOTH PARTIES: A positive relationship makes both people feel good. Neither person feels smothered nor neglected. In other words, this relationship makes you feel happy and good about yourself!
- SHARED VALUES, VIEWS AND ASPIRATIONS: You’re not a carbon copy of each other but you hold the same things as valuable. You share the same opinions about some things and you have hopes and dreams for the future that, somehow, include each other.
Over the past fortnight, the College has explored some of the darker sides of relationships that our children can experience. With Melinda Tankard-Reist and Daniel Principe, the realities of the devastation technology and media can wreak on the well-being and right relationships our children can experience were explored. The understanding of what is involved in a positive, good relationship can make all the difference in how a child can interpret the corrupting messages of the world around them. Knowing how loved and valued they are, and knowing what good relationships look like, gives them the tools to stand up for the positive relationships they can create and that they deserve.
Whether in Prep or Year 12, our students will spend the rest of forever navigating relationships. Talk to your kids and see what sort of relationships they’re involved in. Ask them about their friends and what they think about different things, what they have in common, and even just what they like about them. Encourage your child to challenge their own thinking about their friendships – are they happy? Do they feel safe? Can they say what they think? Maybe even take some time to ask some tricky questions. The best thing we can do, as grownups, is to show our kids how it’s done. Give them an example to follow and be honest with them about how good and bad relationships have affected you.
Your honesty and vulnerability is a great gift to give your kids.
Colleen Crase, Head of Pastoral Care