As the clock finishes striking 12 and the ball has dropped in Times Square, a new year begins. Almost immediately after the grand occasion people start to sing Auld Lang Syne.
The song starts, “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?” The song goes on to focus on the importance of friendships from long ago and draw attention to current friends. It is telling that so many people choose to sing a song about friendship at the start of every new year.
Friends and friendships are truly worth remembering and valuing throughout the lifespan. Without friendships, people become lonely and have a more difficult time dealing with stress and overcoming life’s obstacles.
Friends can be even more important as children are growing up. They start out as a way to get feedback from a peer as children learn how to balance their own desires with those of others. Friends are also something that can’t be taken for granted like parents and siblings might be. Parents will always be a child’s parent but friends have to be maintained or they don’t continue to be friends. The concept of working on a relationship that is valued is an important one for children to understand. Most children learn the hard way what happens if a friend is taken for granted or neglected.
This is where a little discussion on New Year’s Eve can be a good time to talk about friends. Parents can relate stories of their friends when they were growing up. This can include stories about the good times and some of the times where the friendships were challenged. Children can take these stories and learn something from their parents’ experience so that they become better prepared to deal with disagreements among their own friends.
Another area that parents can discuss with their children about friendship is what makes a good friend versus a bad one. Younger children can have particular difficulty discerning the difference between the two. Parents should point out several characteristics that make a good friend.
The primary characteristic is that the friendship is balanced where one child does not tell another child always what to do or makes all of the decisions. Another characteristic is that friends provide comfort and support for each other and don’t primarily criticize what their friends do. Underlying this is a since of loyalty and standing by friends in times of need.
These friendship characteristics will be difficult for younger children to understand and many still struggle with them into adolescence. However, understanding and recognizing a good friendship can make it easier for children and adolescents on which friendships are worth working at and saving and which ones are ready to be put aside.
As everyone sings Auld Lang Syne, take a moment to think about the lyrics and the value of friendships, even those long past. Start a conversation with your children about friendships and pass on your hard won experience about the value of good friendships.