e-Literature

Encouraging Quality Friendships among Students

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Our lives are built-on relationships. We have them in school, at church, during our work, and with God. The list could keep going. We all will keep learning more and more about what it takes to have better relationships as long as the Lord gives us life. Most of my experience with children has come from spending several years in a classroom. However, most of what we will talk about in this article can apply to parents, teachers, and in fact to everyone, since we are all involved in relationships. In this article, we will explore five basic principles that can guide us as we guide children in their relationships. Also, every situation varies a lot based on our personality, the child’s personality, and many more factors. So, we will have to find our way in some of the practical outworkings of these principles. As we work with children’s relationships, it’s good to have a long term goal in mind of taking them to the place that they can face conflict and resolve it with that person without authorities needing to step them through it every time.
Have communication and have lots of it. Any relationship needs lots of communication. We should go out of our way to chat with our children or students. Talk about things that are important to them. Talk about people they enjoy relating to and people they don’t. Talk about people we enjoy relating to and people we don’t. Tell them how we worked through difficult relationships and times when we just had to forgive and go on. We can teach children as much or more during informal times of talking as we do in formal times. Having lots of communication with our children when there are no problems will give us opportunities to guide their relationships and keep problems from being created.
Don’t avoid conflict or try to keep it covered, but rather face it. There is going to be stresses in relationships. In school, there definitely will be. Don’t overlook it or hope it will just go away on its own. Be open about it. Talk with the people involved before it becomes major. When there is conflict at recess between 2 people, sit down with them together and talk about it. It takes two people to fight, and it usually takes two people to resolve it. Talk with them like adults because they are probably closer to adults than what we think. Talk with them as openly and honestly as possible about how we see their relationships and about what consequences we will give them to help them grow. Also, we should keep up our relationship with them after that. Ask them how it is going with that relationship. Keep encouraging them and being there to guide them. Jesus’ method for dealing with conflict in Matthew 18 is for us to go and talk with the brother we had a conflict with. As we work with children, we need to be preparing them to live that out as adults.
Focus on ourselves and not on other people’s problems. Jesus said to take the splinter out of our own eye before we worry about the beam in our brothers’ eye. Most children and adults could go on and on about how other people wronged them and how they were hurt by it. The resolution of a problem will only come when we can have children see their faults and ask forgiveness for that. If they are still worried about the other person who was in the conflict after saying sorry for what they did or receiving a just punishment, they have not truly forgiven. When working with children, we should not let them talk about other people’s problems but keep the focus on the child we are talking to.
Model good relationships to our children. This is especially important for parents. Our children are going to relate to others in similar ways as we do. I noticed that a lot during the time I was teaching school. Students talk about the things that make their parents excited, about the subjects talked about at home, and about other people the way their parents do. If we are running other people down or come across as though our life is put together and no one else quite reached the same spiritual pinnacle we are at; it should not surprise us when our children do the same. Model what it is to have a good relationship. Show them how to walk through conflict with others. Show them that we don’t talk nasty about other people when we’re not around them. I wish it would be as easy as just having good relationships ourselves, and our children would follow along in the same path, but it isn’t. I think God knows he can teach us a lot as we help guide youth in their relationships.
Spend a lot of time in prayer. I was recently reading through Deuteronomy and read how Moses had fallen prostrate before God and hadn’t eaten or drank anything for 40 days as he pleaded to God to save the Israelites after they built the golden calf. How would our children’s relationships be affected if we pleaded for God’s help in guiding them and for God’s help to them as they learn to have meaningful relations? For myself too often, I tried my strategies and ideas on helping make good relationships and didn’t ask God. Also, when students or children have conflicts in friendship, I think it’s good to have God in the picture as we resolve it. Talk about God’s way for relationships as we resolve conflict and pray together with them, asking for God’s help in the future.
I am writing this article not as someone who has it figured out but as someone who is finding their way in helping children have good relationships. Being a teacher gave me plenty of opportunities to make ideals for my children. Being a parent helped me realize it’s much easier to have high ideals than to make them happen. I wish God’s blessings to everyone as we put energy into children’s lives to prepare them for an active life in the Kingdom of God.