Teaching our kids how to be good friends and find good friends is an important lesson that takes years to do right. Read on to be inspired by 5 ways to teach about friendship during the summer months + discover resources from Responsibility.org, the sponsor of this post.
Our big kids Elias and Adeline are a month into their summer vacation and cultivating and maintaining friendships has been a huge part of their summer story. Matthew and I are really mindful of the importance of friendship in our kids’ lives because it makes an impact for a lifetime. I remember my childhood was filled with kids who mostly impacted me in positive ways. I also remember a few “friends” who were very hurtful. As a parent I want to do my best to teach my kids how to be a good friend and the impact their friends can have on them.
Here are five ways to teach our kids about friendship. Hopefully these ideas are especially helpful during these months of summer break!
Though I was never an athlete as a child, I was involved in many extracurricular activities. Now, as a parent, I want my kids to have those same experiences because of the friendships they foster. Elias and Adeline both love soccer and we have seen how the sport has enriched the friendships in their lives. This summer Adeline had a pizza gathering with her soccer team and this weekend Elias is going to have a pickup game at a local park with a few soccer buddies. Their friendships they have extended beyond the season, which is a beautiful gift.
We also have been watching the World Cup and talked about the friendship the teammates obviously have with one another. It is evident in the way the women work together, celebrating each other’s skillsets, and collectively playing together as one for the common goal of winning.
One of the things I marvel about with kids is how easily they make friends — and I love that! A few weeks ago I was in Wisconsin with the kids and we met up with an old high school friend of mine, Rachel, and her two kids. Our kids were instantly buds. It was so awesome. We left with the kids begging us to plan another time for us to get together.
This summer my kids have gone old-school by being pen pals with a friend’s kids in Wisconsin who are the same age as my kids. It has been a joy to see them get so excited about writing to their friends, getting to know them better, and looking forward to a good old-fashioned letter in the mailbox.
Our next door neighbors are our kids’ best friends. This summer they have played together nearly every day possible – some days as early as 6:45 am! I have watched them ride bikes, trade cards, explore, make up games in the yard and so much more. Occasionally someone will get their feelings hurt and we will talk about how to navigate that – sometimes it means an apology, sometimes it means looking at things from a different perspective and sometimes it means sharing a hurt with their friend. These experiences are life lessons I know my children will carry with them into adulthood. Developing, deep, kind, thoughtful friends is so much more important than having a bunch of shallow friendships.
Summer offer the opportunity to teach hospitality through playdates, meals and parties! Sharing, listening, and making memories are all part of the lessons my kids learn when they have friends over. With both Elias and Adeline having summer birthdays, it also means summer parties at our house, which is one big hospitality-fest. I hope as adults, my kids will look back on their experiences at home and know that having an open door and inviting people around the table is always a gift.
As a parent of young kids, I have to play a proactive role in inviting friends into my kids’ days and experiences. My kids don’t have cell phones and it isn’t as simple as them sending off a text. So I have looked for opportunities to invite their friends into their stories this summer. For instance, this week I texted a mom of one of Adeline’s friends and invited them to join us to see Toy Story 4. It made a fun night out even better because Adeline had a friend there.
I want to end with this: Last fall, my husband, Matthew, heard U.S. soccer legend Julie Foudy talk at a small sponsored roundtable discussion sponsored by Responsibility.org. Matthew could not stop talking about Julie’s stories and advice. One of his favorite parts of her talk was hearing her share about the incredible friendships she experienced with her teammates. She said that the camaraderie that the women on that team exhibited centered around celebrating each other’s strengths and lifting each other up toward being their best and embracing their truest potential. Toward the end of her talk, she asked the question: “Who’s in your squad? Who’s in your child’s squad?”
Matthew and I both believe in the power of strong friendship circles, especially as it relates to our kids. From an early age, we’ve encouraged all of our kids to pursue strong friendships. Through their experiences we hope they will help them develop good people skills, traits that will help them be a good friend but also help them develop healthy relationships with others.
The older our kids get, the more important a strong healthy circle of friendships becomes. As we all know, the friendships our kids pursue can either help them be their best OR guide them in directions that might make life more challenging. The question that Julie Foudy asked that will become one that I will ask my children is this: Who lifts you up?
Who brings out your best? Who cheers you on when life is difficult? Who wants you to embrace your very best self? The answer to those questions make up one’s squad, a group of people who do life together and who win together and who help each other be their very best.
For conversation starters and resources to help parents, visit Responsibility.org, which has a plethora of incredible offerings. This site is truly a gold mine of important and helpful information for parents with kids of all ages.