The #1 Ingredient for Building Friendships With Your Children
I remember coming home from the park with my preschool daughters. One would say, “I made a friend today.” Her face glowing and her voice bubbling with excitement.
“Really,” I would ask. “What’s her name?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where does she live?”
“I don’t know.” (Both times the “I don’t know” reply was said in a nonchalant manner, as though the question held no real relevance at all.)
“How do you know she’s your friend?”
“We played on the slide together,” she answered excitedly
“Will you see her again?”
“Yes, Daddy, she comes to the park too,” was the confident reply.
This brief conversation, which occurred time and again, taught me an important lesson. Preschoolers build friendships based on shared activities. They don’t need to know a lot of information about the other person. They just want to play together. So, my preschool daughter could go to the park for an hour and walk away with a “new best friend” simply because they engaged in a fun activity together. That realization started me thinking (always a dangerous pastime)…if any little kid can become my daughter’s “new best friend” by playing together at the park for less than an hour, I could really build my relationship with her by enjoying a fun activity with her each day! We could play hide-n-seek, swing on the swings, make chocolate chip cookies, play catch, kick a ball, read a book…the possibilities are limitless. The activity itself is less important than the outcome. What is the outcome? Having a shared activity with my daughter. In her eyes, that makes us “best friends.” And from those foundational preschool “best friend” activities, I begin to develop a lifelong relationship! When she begins to base friendships more on who is a part of her life and world (which she will do in the elementary school years), I will have already laid the foundation of spending time with her. I can continue to spend time with her and become an integral part of her every day world. When she enters her teen years and begins to base her friendships on shared interests and trust, I will have laid the foundation of trust by spending consistent time with her through the preschool and elementary years. I will have laid the foundation of having shared interests with her by involving myself in her world throughout the elementary school years. Building on that foundation, I can remain available throughout her teen years, faithful in my presence and trusted with information. Simply by sharing activities with my daughter during her preschool years, I will have built a relationship that will sustain us into young adult and throughout the rest of our lives. A simple step during preschool will have set us on a trajectory leading to a constantly growing relationship. So, start building relationships early in your children’s lives…and enjoy a lifetime relationship. If you missed the beginning, don’t worry. You can always start spending time with them now…you can begin to share activities today…you become present in their world today…you can prove yourself trustworthy today. The important thing is to start. Let the relationship begin!