By Cherie Werner
Good friends are one of the greatest blessings in life. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to find a good friend and sometimes it is just as difficult to be a good friend. As teachers, we get the wonderful opportunity to help our students learn and practice many things, including how to be a good friend. Here are some ideas to help.
Start with each child in mind. In order to be a good friend, a child has to feel good about him- or herself. Help the children in your care to identify and value their own unique gifts and talents. Help them to see their worth and value to God and others.
Talk about friendship. Discuss the attributes of a good friend and a bad friend. Make a list of the qualities that make up a good friend and talk about how to put those qualities into practice.
Role play. Give children a chance to “work through” certain situations and practice what to do ahead of time. Give examples of good communication such as listening, showing empathy and compassion, sharing feelings, and the like.
Practice. In addition to role play, give your students opportunities to practice listening. Help them to listen for and verbalize the meaning and feelings that they heard as they listened.
Model. Give examples either from your own life or other anonymous sources. Share feelings, parts of conversations, and how things turned out. Talk about successes and mistakes. Help them to learn from the real-life experiences of others.
Teach conflict resolution. Even the best of friendships experience conflict. Knowing how to take responsibility for one’s mistakes, how to apologize, and how to forgive and move on can help children keep those friendships strong.
Discuss friendship expectations. Help children understand that it is okay to have more than one friend because each friend offers something different and unique. Talk about not expecting too much from any one friend and how to “share” friends.
Use teachable moments. When children come to you with a problem or a conflict, be intentional about teaching them how to talk and listen to one another. Guide them in the process of working through the problem, understanding one another, and coming to a place of compromise or a solution. The earlier you start guiding them through this process, the better they will become at working through that process on their own.
Share with us! Tell about a few of the positive friendships in your kids’ ministry or describe a few of the conflicts you’ve seen recently.
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