Back to school items fill the stores: row after row of backpacks, pencil cases, folders, and calculators.
But there’s one thing every kid needs for school that you just can’t buy. Good friends. Your child may have the coolest school supplies, but if he or she has a negative, deceptive, or destructive friend, it’s going to be a rough year.
How can you help your kids pick good friends? What are the things you can say to teach your son or daughter to choose friends wisely?
My husband James came up with a clever idea. Instead of us lecturing our kids about the merits of friendship, he decided to have them lecture us. During summer break, our kids were required to prepare a short speech about how to choose friends. He also asked the kids to include what to do when a friend changes, and you no longer are comfortable being friends. Our kids certainly didn’t jump for joy at this assignment, but they wrote up their essays and prepared to present their speeches one evening after dinner.
I introduced them individually with great fanfare to present their speeches to a packed house (their parents, grandma, and the dog). Here are a few excerpts from their speeches:
“This topic has the power to lead you to success or failure. It can make you a better person or make you someone unimaginable to your former self. It can make you better at the things that are important to you, or just as easily draw you away from your goals in life. What has the power to do these things? Friendships!”
“It’s important to choose friends wisely. If your friends say bad words, you might get caught saying a bad word. In addition, they might hurt your feelings or gossip about you, and you might not be able to trust them.”
“Having a bad friend is better than having no friends. Right? Wrong!”
I was blown away by their speeches. My mom was beaming as she listened to her grandchildren talk about the power of friendship to grow your life or wreck it. I recorded their speeches on my phone because I figured in the near future, one of them may need a refresher course in friendship.
And they’ll hear the good advice in their own words.
So maybe instead of only telling your children about the merits of a faithful friendship, you can be more creative to get your point across. You can have your children write and present speeches like mine, or you might just ask for an essay about friendship or a fictional story about friendship for your creative writer or artist. Other ideas include:
Telling your kids stories from when you were young. When did you make the wrong decision about a friend? Talk about a school friend you still have today – how did you meet? What funny stories can you tell about him or her?
Acting out a storybook about friendship. You can take a book like “The Little Engine That Could” and act it out. Afterward, ask which engine your child would like to have as a friend. And what kind of engine (friend) would they like to be to others? Emphasize the importance of looking for positive, can-do friends and being one yourself.
Watch a movie and talk about the friendships depicted in the movie. For instance, in Winnie the Pooh, what makes Pooh a good friend to Christopher Robin? Eeyore, Rabbit, Tigger, and Piglet are all very different in personality, yet they are all good friends. How can different personalities complement one another?
When your children have good, moral friends, they will have a much easier time developing into who they were meant to be. Guide your kids to choose their friends wisely, and also don’t forget to choose your own friends well. Your kids are watching. When you have strong, healthy friendships, your children are more likely to have the same.
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of several books including Parents Rising: 8 Strategies for Raising Kids Who Love God, Respect Authority, and Value What’s Right. and Calm, Cool, and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life. Learn more at ArlenePellicane.com.