Friendships can form spontaneously or over time; they can develop with classmates, teammates, work or at our places of worship; can be based on mutual interests or a shared history; and can last for a summer or for a lifetime. Regardless of the context, encouraging healthy friendships in your child’s life can prove to be a critical factor in his or her development, and this starts in the very earliest years.
During a classroom meeting at Irvine Hebrew Day School (IHDS), students were asked, “What does it mean to be a good friend?” A brainstorming session about the do’s and don’ts of being a friend revealed how kindergarteners and first graders view friendship: Friends “play together,” “say nice things to each other,” “help each other feel better” and “take turns;” friends also “don’t leave people out,” “act bossy” or “say mean things.” While these young children perhaps use basic language and simple illustrations to express their ideas, they actually demonstrate a deep understanding of the principles of friendship. Friendship provides more than a playmate. Friendship is the foundation for respectful communication, positive interpersonal skills, empathy, emotional support and moral development.
This idea is expressed perhaps with greater sophistication by Rabbi Raphael Pelcovitz and Dr. David Pelcovitz (rabbi and psychologist father-son team): “When a child learns how to truly be a friend, he or she is acquiring the invaluable ability to relate to the different needs and views of others, from a position of respect and understanding. Learning to embrace a friend’s perspective and set aside our own needs and views are invaluable tools in a child’s development.” Just as our IHDS students suggested, friendships lay the foundation for healthy, empathetic, meaningful and respectful relationships.
IHDS students are taught to check in with themselves during challenging moments and ask, “Am I being a good friend right now?” If we ask ourselves the same question during our vulnerable moments we can effectively be the role models our children need for a lifetime of connection, belonging and personal fulfillment. Let’s set our children on the right path by actively fostering friendships filled with humor, trust, honest communication, patience and respectful listening, which define our healthiest and most fulfilling relationships.
Tammy is a proud mother of three children ages 19, 17 and 13, the Principal (last month principal was spelled principle) of Irvine Hebrew Day School and a Certified Positive Discipline Trainer.