Why children need friends

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Childhood friends are very important. 

I am not referring to long distances friends (such as pen-pals) that one hardly ever meets, but real face to face friends that children can play with, dream up games with, share secrets, enjoy sleepovers with and support each other when feeling sad and share the joys of life. 

We ALL need friends to confide in. 

 And to learn about friendship and why it is important, children need to have friends of their own from a early age (and I am not referring to siblings). 

My dad and I were talking about the importances of friends and my dad made a comment that he never had any childhood friends and it still made him sad even at the age of 80. He wishes he had friends and says that the lack of friends as a child made making friends as an adult much more difficult. It also meant that he went through his growing up years and adulthood (including loosing his mother) without someone to share that journey with and we all need this, even if at the time we don't realise it. 

I had a few childhood friends, not a lot and several I am still very close too. I look back on these friendships with great fondness and nostalgia and so pleased that my parents encouraged these friendships and understood the importances of them. 

The relationship we have with friends is different to the relationship we have with our siblings and cousins. Our sibling relationship is much more intimate and deep and whilst this is very important, those people who lack friends outside of the family circle generally say that they miss the relationship that one has with close friends. 

Like most people, I have several layers of friends:

* I have very close (intimate) friends that know lots about me (some of these I am related to)—this group is very important and are the ones that I rely on the most and I know will pray during difficult times and share the joy of the great times. They know when to hug, listen, have a shoulder to cry on — they understand me. These are the most important group of friends and ones I couldn't do with out. 

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* I have other friends that are close but not as intimate but do know some of my story but not everything. These are lovely friends, some I go to book-club with, to the theatre or out for afternoon tea. Also important and necessary. 

* Then I have friends further out from the circle that are great, lots of fun who I catch up with for chats and whilst we are supportive of each other we haven't shared much of our intimate story with each other. 

Each level of my circle is important and I need them all as they are the cogs that keep me healthy and stop the loneliness that all people have when they lack friends. Of course, my friendships work both ways — my friends keep me healthy and I hope that I keep them healthy. 

The fact that I can build a complex layer of friends is because I learnt at an early age how to make friends and understand the layers of friendship. This doesn't happen overnight it occurs as we grow up which is why having friend is important and why teaching our children the importances of friendships is necessary. 

Friends help us to build important skills in a supportive manner — they can take us out of our shells  and help develop the ability to interact with others — this is important later in life when one has to work and interact with others in society. Remember, humans were never designed to hide away from other humans — we need to be able interact with others and this interaction is in fact very important for our overall wellbeing.  

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Friends support us through the tough moments in life — even for young friends this is still important. Friends are fun just to fool about with and laugh and we know that laughter is really good for us. Friend give us a reality check — they bring us back to earth if we are too bossy, rude or silly. 

Friends reduce loneliness and loneliness is never good and with growing numbers of young people suffering from depression and anxiety — friends, those that are more than casual friends, are vital in a young person's life, especially for boys. 

I know parents worry about the friends their children have and whether or not they pass approval which is why parents need to understand why friends are important and to make the effort to make sure their children have friends outside of the home. Yes, be vigilant (and search out Christian friendships) but not to the point where your children simply don't have any friends because none match up to your expectations. 

You only need to look at cats and dogs to understand that even they do not like loneliness and dogs in particular love to play and romp with a bunch of other dogs. 

You need friends, your children need friends — it is bond that has been occurring for centuries but sadly in recent decades we are seeing a decline, particular due to technology, but also to parental worry. 

In the end the children will suffer as friendships are important in all parts of our lives, from the very young to the old. Please don't let your children reach 80 (like my dad) and feel very sad that they never had childhood friends. The thought make me feel sad. 

******

Comments

  1. I can't imagine my life without my childhood friend (sister).
    We met when she was 3 and I was 4. Today, we talk several times a day. We haven't lived by each other for years but that hasn't stopped us from being close.
    Our friendship is 60 years old and going strong!!!

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    1. What a beautiful story :)) I have a friend who we met when we were just babies - our mothers were good friends. She is my oldest and very dear friend :)

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  2. I agree wholeheartedly, children do need friends. My parents have been careful and cautious, but not overbearing when it came to the friends us children have. Most of my best friends are my siblings, but there are a number of friends outside of my family I trust.
    Not only do childhood friendships aid in the long run with adult relationships, they are also helpful with iron sharpening iron.

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    1. It is so important to be careful but never to the point that no one ever matches up, otherwise you can go through life with no friends and that would be tragic.

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  3. My daughter has had some trouble in the past making a true friend, but this year she really connected with someone and they have so much fun together. The transformation in her has been wonderful. She is more confident. She is doing better in school. She is even more tolerant and compassionate to those she doesn't particularly like. Some of this is just her maturing of course, but I can see that a lot of the positivity stems from her BFF relationship.

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    1. My eldest son really struggled to make friends (due to his ADHD) and never had very many, but those he has now, he really enjoys their company and it has done him a world of good. He was the sort of child that it was important to help make friends as it did take him out of his shell and give him courage.

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  4. So true! I think close family ties and friendships are extremely important, but children(and all of us!) do need friends. I have known families that discouraged their children from making friends outside the sibling/cousin circle, and while I can understand being careful about who children's friends are, that seemed too isolating for me. We can learn so much about relating to other people from our friends.

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    1. I have to agree. I grew up surrounded by my three siblings and lots of cousins which I am still very close to, but it was always nice to have friends outside of the family circle. If you don't teach children how to make friends, they will find it so hard when they are adults, its the problem my dad struggles with even now in his 80s and so wishes he had friends when he was younger. Its sad to see him regretting this now.

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  5. What a heart felt post on friends. I have a best friend that I've known for years and even now that we are in different states we still are close. I'm so glad too that my daughter has some wonderful encouraging friends. We all need friends !!!

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    1. Both of my oldest friends now live a long way from me, but when we get together (which isn't very often) it is as if we have never been apart. Not only are we friends, but our mothers are friends with each other which is also very special.

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  6. In the past couple of years I have really made an effort to allow my kids to have friends over whenever we can manage it. I agree that friendship is incredibly important for kids (and adults, too!).

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    1. It doesn't mean we need lots, quality over quantity - a hard one for some children though. My youngest wanted lots of friends but discovered that many didn't always mean good things. He know only has a few friends and much happier.

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  7. This is so true. God did not create us to be independent of others.

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    1. He certainly didn't and without friends it can be so lonely.

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  8. Friendship is a vital part of life. I can't say that I'm close to any friends that I made during my childhood. However, I can see that point of your post. I do strive to provide my kids with the opportunity to make friends by going to local events and also going to church.

    I don't like my oldest son's choice in friendships that much but I do try to support his choices provided they don't lead him down the wrong path. Even then, I just try to correct the wrong action.

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    1. Whilst it would be great to pre-select our childrens friends, sometimes it is a lesson they need to learn on their own - just as we do as adults. My son had a few friends who he thought were ok, it turned out they used him and were selfish young men - once he got rid of them (with our help) things have improved.

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  9. Very good, Jo, and so timely. Sometimes it seems like some Christian parents are becoming much too strict about allowing their children to have friends. One of my grandmothers had no real friends growing up and it seemed like she didn't learn how to have a close friendship. It is sad to think about.

    Proverbs 18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

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    1. My father finds it so sad when he looks back at his lack of friends. He had brothers and sisters, but friends are different and are needed. I feel sad for him because it still worries him years and years later.

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  10. The funny thing about friendships is that apart from family, I don't have very many friends my own age at all. Most of my friends are a lot older than me. I think it's important that we encourage children to make friendships with people of many different ages.
    Some of my closest friends are penfriends/online friends, probably partly because I'm introverted so it's easier to open up on paper/online than it is to do so in person. My oldest friendship (apart from family) is a very special penfriend (who I have met twice in person) who I have been friends with since I was 8 years old.

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    1. I do agree about having friends that are different ages but sadly that can be very difficult. I was blessed as a child to have this opportunity and it taught me to be able to talk with older people but many young people today have very little contact with the elderly and they really don't have any respect for them as a result. I don't have lots of friends, but those I do are all special to me.

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