It has been said that any person who has even three really good friends is truly blessed. I don’t know if the number is correct, but I do know everyone needs and wants friends. The trouble comes when we want friends so badly that we compromise what we know is right in order to make friends. This sometimes happens in childhood. When it does happen, it can have a profound negative influence on a child’s life.
Children need to know the characteristics of a genuine friend. They also need to know how to be a friend to others. In addition, they need to know that they always have a friend in their family.
It is a big temptation for children to “hang out” with those who seem to be the most popular. Quite often, this is the situation that will tempt a child to do things contrary to what they have been taught in order to be accepted. Parents need to teach children that true friends are those who want the best for them. A true friend would never want anything that would cause the person to get in trouble in any way. True friends build up; they don’t tear down. A good friend is one who cares for you even when you are not at your best. A friend is someone you can trust, not someone you have to constantly try to please. Real friends will not put pressure to change or behave a certain way. If children understand this, they will not succumb to peer pressure as easily.
The Bible tells us that if we want friends, we must be friendly (see Proverbs 18:24 KJV). This means that they should exhibit the same qualities to others that make a good friend. They should not be demanding, and always want the best for the other person. The basis of all good manners is kindness and consideration of others. This holds true, as well, for making friends.
Many times a child may get in a situation where it is seemingly impossible to make good friends. When this happens, it is good for the child to know that there is always a friend at home in the form of mom, dad, brother or sister. It is so important to support children in this area. Over and over it seems that children get in trouble because they are searching for something they do not find at home.
One of the reasons a person joins a gang is to make friends and feel like part of a family. It was enlightening to have a gang member from San Diego, CA, in my GED class in Shell Knob a few years ago. He told our class in speaking about his gang, “It’s your family, man, it’s your family!”
There is a universal need for love and acceptance. We need to put children in an environment where they can make good, genuine friends to give them this love and acceptance. Even more importantly, we need to help children realize that they always have a friend in Jesus who loves them unconditionally.