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Childhood Friendships and their Impact

I was reading a Facebook post by ‘Fast Company’ that caught my eye about resiliency in children (including the topic of friendships and their impact) and how to best develop it. What intrigued me was a tip about encouraging interaction with a wide variety of friends in school (variety being critical). The author stated that the exposure to a range of stressors, hardships, and difficulties through a friend can serve as a ‘teachable tool’ and champion a higher level of resiliency. I consider myself to be a fairly resilient person and my mom played a large role. My mom would often discuss my perceptions and ask me why I held the ideas that I did. The most impactful part was that she never told me who to befriend.

The author asks parents to pay close attention to the composition of the circle of friends around their child. I view the circle as imperfect, more like an ever-changing ball of Play-do that can resemble a tennis ball, football, or even a golf ball. I stopped to think about all the friends I had between 3rd and 5th grade. My circle changed in size, composition, and function. When I look back; I was exposed to a myriad of resiliency experiences in action.

First up is Tina. She lived with her single dad, who had moved to the city to secure a better job and better housing. Right away, I saw that the single dad situation had a lot of similarities to living with a single mom. I remember Tina’s dad later went on to attend veterinary school when inconsistencies in construction work got more intense. Tina was also Barbie obsessed and definitely had a decisive approach to how any girl should look, act, and behave as a friend (and her perception of that word).

There was Ana who only lived in the neighborhood for less than a year. She was a part of a 5-person family in an apartment that was smaller than where my mom and I had lived in another state. Sleepovers meant three of us to one twin bed and we adored the entire experience. Ana’s family always greeted me with a hug and kiss. We all cooked together and everyone had a job to do. We all ate in the tiny kitchen and everyone shared in the news of the day. I loved the large family with the open acceptance. Ana was accepting of every situation I ever saw her involved; thoughtfully like my grandma.

Finally, there was Tracy. She was an only child like me – and that was the only thing we shared. Tracy had both parents and an amazing house unlike any that I had ever been in before; impeccably kept and sterilized of character. Her mom was a former dancer who pressured Tracy in ballet. They acted more like roommates and I never witnessed a hug between them. Tracy had a challenging time making and keeping friends and despite the amazing opportunities and talents she possessed; I only remember her as sad.

I’ve only shared tiny tidbits of each friend and things that stuck out to me. There certainly were other seasonings that flavored the experiences. Race. Heritage. World views. Religion. Family roles and size. Money. Expectations. Who was there and who was not. Exposure to these friends during elementary school impacted me and lent me important pieces in the makeup of my own resiliency. How I fit in each dynamically different home. How I handled the friendship and arguments. How each family‘s struggle was the same and different.

When you think of your childhood circle of friends – do you think they impacted you and the resiliency that you harbor? How? Were there some that were more significant? What about your child(ren)? How do you involve yourselves in the friendships of your child(ren)? Are you in the driver’s seat or a passenger? If you’re interested in reading more: Fast Company (www.fastcompany.com): How to Raise Resilient Kids – Feb.2, 2016.

Written by Heather Lascano

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