Why children need friends
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.
* 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.
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.