Childhood friendships are as special as they are a necessary part of growing up. While some of our children will maintain these friendships into adulthood, many will not. Kids move away or they find other friends with more current interests and grow apart. Whatever form a childhood friendship is taking, know that these relationships are vital to your child's well-being and growth as a human being.
Your child may have one very special friend from the time they are in diapers or they might have a gaggle of giggling girl friends or a thunderstorm of wild boy friends. These bonds can be helped along or a wedge can be placed between them by the parents. Depending upon your feelings about your child's friend, you could welcome the child into your home and be gracious or you could find that the child your child is enthralled with is a demon incarnate. It's up to you to teach your kids how to interact in healthy ways with their peers or how to let negative friendships go.
While I've been traumatized by a few of my daughters' friends, I have liked most of them. The few children whom I found intolerable were not too welcome in my home, however, if one of my daughter's insisted on a play date with that undesirable child, I would allow the friendship to take its course, mostly to try and figure out what in the world my child liked about her/him. Made for some interesting lessons in humanity. ;-) Most of these friendships have faded in good time, on their own. One or two of these kids have actually won me over and now are among my favorites, although I must admit these kids were basically OK to begin with. They just came with issues I didn't want to deal with. I dealt for my child's sake and all turned out well.
A child who is a truly bad influence on your child will need to be shunned, as painful as that may seem to your child at the time. I find that if you adequately explain that the child in question isn't very 'nice' or has actually hurt or emotionally abused your child; this can be sufficient reason for your child to understand the situation without too much trauma. If they resist your urging to make new friends or avoid the horrid one, you will probably need to be tolerant until your child digests the circumstances and moves on in her own time. This helps your child learn to differentiate between people they want to spend time with, those they don't and to make their own choices.
The children you like and who are good influences on your child should be invited over often. Have them stay for dinner, take them along on family or fun outings and allow them to become part of your extended family just as your own friends are. Children need to know their friends are welcome in their home. Treat their buddies with the same respect you would expect your children to treat your pals. They will see how you interact with others who visit and will learn how to be good friends and gracious hosts themselves.
© Rexanne Mancini '2003-2004
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