Friends are cultivated and nurtured much like seeds planted in the ground and, as the song says, are precious like silver and gold.
When it comes to our physical and mental health, friendship may truly be the best medicine. An Australian study showed that strong social networks may lengthen survival in elderly men and women, with good friends being even more likely to increase longevity than close family members.
The closer we get to someone, the more invested we become in their emotions and behavior. We are far more likely to be reactive to our best friends. When they aren’t feeling or acting quite themselves, they can incite feelings of frustration, judgment, competitiveness, or hurt in us.
Think about what kind of friend you want to be as you consider these tips for keeping your friendships strong throughout the years:
Be honest. Relationships built on false buildups or phony facades are only as good as their foundation. Superficial relationships often fizzle over time. To achieve a solid friendship, you have to be honest with each other.
Being able to offer and receive feedback from someone you trust is a gift that can easily be overlooked. There is no way to feel more connected to someone than to open yourself up to them. Plus, keeping an honest dialogue helps prevent you from building up cynicism and boiling over in a moment when you feel triggered.
Repair issues quickly. No one is perfect. We are all sure to mess up at times, but when we do, we have to set pride aside and repair the situation. Being honest shouldn’t be about being cruel. Finding a balance where you can say what you think without being parental, defining, or judgmental is important for keeping a level of trust between you and a friend.
When you make a mistake, apologize for it. Make sure the friend understands that your intention is not to hurt or punish. Explain where you went wrong and what you mean by saying sorry.
Make time and show appreciation. Express how you feel and take actions that show how well you know and care for them. Generosity is the key to happiness. A good friend shows interest in who we are and what we struggle with, but it is important not to let the relationship become one-sided or to become self-centered in your focus.
When it comes to helping your children keep friendships, be alert to how they are nurturing their friendships. If you find they are having an issue with a friend, take time to talk about it with them, but let them do most of the talking. Kids are fairly resilient in these matters, and most will get over the occasional bump in the relationship road so don’t jump in immediately. Be observant and check in with them from time to time on their friends.
If there is a relationship that brings your child joy, support it, even if the kids attend different schools. Scheduling time for them to see important friends outside of school, even if it’s only once in a while, helps them stay connected.
Respect your child’s personality. Some children may have a lot of friends, and others may not need many friends to feel happy. It is important to celebrate and support your child’s personality and needs.