My BFF: Cultivating deep friendships for yourself and your children

friendship Happy New Year, friends! As I struggled to keep my eyes open until 12 p.m., I wearily rang in the New Year with a dear, dear friend whom I have known since preschool. She’s my B.F.F., and something pretty rare. We have been friends for 35+ years! We have traveled through sleep-overs, family vacations (both as youth and adults), talent shows, dance classes, middle school dances, first perms, proms, first boyfriends, wild spring breaks, many Dave Matthews concerts, track meets, football games, homecomings, college, more parties, weddings, and children. Wow! That’s a lot of life lessons so far and we’re still going. I consider it such a blessing, to have a friendship that can always pick back up where you left off.

Now, we haven’t always been BFF’s! Some years we were ‘besties’ and other years, we had other ‘besties’. But, we were always friends. When she joined the Dance Ensemble, she shared a passion for dance with others. When I was on the soccer team, I spent a lot of time with my teammates. When we went to college, she joined a sorority, I did not. After college, she moved away and I did not. But, despite all these changes and many new friends for both of us, we remained friends. Some years we were closer than others but we grew with the changes instead of growing apart. That’s a true friendship, when you allow the person room to grow and change but know they will always be your friend.

We have a lot in common, yet we are different too. We respect and value each other as individuals, and don’t mind sharing our awesomeness with others! We have fun just talking, walking, and sometimes running through life together. Living in different towns, we have different friends and different hobbies. We continue to lead similar yet different lives but I just love her because she’s such a real person. We often times have people think we are sisters so we have even grown to look alike! If you are lucky to have a Greer in your life, then don’t take it for granted.

I have told elementary school girls that I work with about Greer and our life-long friendship, that they may still be friends with friends they meet now when they grow up. But, how do you do that? I have so many girls come to me for counseling for friendship problems in elementary school. Good parents are surprised and stressed to discover that it is more common than not to encounter friendship problems at an early age, from minor bumps in the road to full-fledged bullying. It can be brutal on a young girl’s self esteem to feel unliked and lonely. And, I do emphasize girls and not boys.

Boys’ friendships and sense-of-belonging is just as important. I have worked with many boys who have asked to see me because the rules in the kickball game are unfair and they are pushed to the side. Boys “need to see me”, as they say because someone pushed them in P.E. or at their locker. But, that’s just it. It’s a one-time deal and then it’s over. It doesn’t typically linger and fester like girls’ issues can.  Generally, their friendships are simpler. They might be wrestling one moment, hurting each other the next, and then on to the next activity just like that.

Girls are more complicated. They are more territorial with their friends. They are more emotional and sometimes more sensitive leading to more complex friendship dynamics. And, it starts very young. Who are you sitting with at lunch, who are you playing with at recess, and even more important, who are you doing the talent show with!? For some children, sharing comes more naturally. The children who struggle with sharing, material objects and/or friends, will have a challenging time maintaining healthy and happy friendships. Insecure personalities or children with unstable and unpredictable parents at home may have more difficulty sharing their friends. They cling onto peers and have inappropriate boundaries, becoming jealous over other friendships or even their friend’s successes.

Now, are we talking about adults or children here? The above can apply to both. We have all met those caddy women who are competitive with their peers and instead of celebrating their friend’s successes , they direct the attention back on themselves. They love to always be the center of attention without recognizing their friend’s struggles or successes. They can leave you feeling drained instead of uplifted! They never learned to share and may have difficulty maintaining a rewarding lifelong friendship. I know both adults and children who do this.

So, if you want to have and maintain a BFF, then act like the kind of friend you’d want to be around! Show your children what friendship looks like:

  • Let your friends share their time and joy with others.
  • Give them space to be different than you; appreciate and value their differences. Learn from them.
  •  Don’t be afraid to be different from them!
  •  Expect that they may not always put you first.
  • Celebrate their joys and just be there when they need you. Don’t take it personally if they don’t need you.
  • Show your children that friendships are important. People with close friends live longer, and live more happily.
  • Teach them that it’s more important to have a couple true friends than to be popular. Having a handful of close, real friends as an adult is uncommon and a blessing.
  • And , if you’re lucky enough to have a B.F.F., know they could last a lifetime!

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