Friends can have a powerful impact on children. Children are more likely to do something wrong—or even something right—if their friends are also doing it. This family night for school-age children helps them learn to choose friends wisely and intentionally and to evaluate their current friendships.
Also prepare two pictures of children. These can be drawn or found in coloring books or magazines. Give each one a name. You may want a set of each gender if you have both sons and daughters. Choose one picture to represent a good friend and one to represent a bad friend. Prepare word strips with things a good or bad friend might say and place them in a box or bag.
Examples: “You’re such a baby. All the other kids are going to smoke today. Why won’t you?”
“You know what? I don’t like the way Megan and Brad are trying to make us smoke today. Let’s go do something by ourselves instead…and maybe go find some new friends.”
“I can’t believe you failed your math test. It was so easy!”
“I know reading is pretty hard for you. I’ll bet you’re worried about the book report. Why don’t we choose the same book and read it together?”
Begin the lesson by asking each person, including parents, to describe one of their friends. After each presentation, ask questions to help the child demonstrate how this person helps them. “What does she do when you’re having a hard time?” “How does she react when you don’t want to do something you know is against the rules?” “How does she make you a better person?” If you’re concerned about some of the answers, plan to discuss them with the child privately later.
When the adults give their presentation, they can demonstrate the importance of quality friendships and how they impact our lives for good.
Ask your family how they become friends with someone. Do they choose friends or do they just befriend anyone who is handy? Do they ever decide to end a friendship? Why or why not?
Display the pictures of the children you prepared. Tell them which picture shows the good friend, and which shows the bad friend. Invite family members to take turns choosing a wordstrip from the bag, reading it, and placing it under the proper friend. Statements a worthy friend would make go under the good friend, and other statements should be placed with the bad friend. When the strips have all been placed, ask them what the difference is between the good friend comments and the bad friend comments. What can they learn from this about choosing friends?
Ask if they’ve ever seen children they know make bad decisions because their friends were all doing it. Have they ever seen children talked out of a bad decision by a good friend? Tell a story to provide an example of this. If you don’t have one, use the following:
Two girls with high moral values were very excited. A group of popular kids were suddenly interested in being their friends. They found themselves being invited to great parties and being admired by other kids. However, they soon realized their new friends had different standards than they did. At first, they refused to participate in the activities they knew were wrong. However, each time they did, the new friends would get angry or even make fun of them. They were warned that if they didn’t start drinking, smoking, and skipping school, they’d be out of the group. One girl was determined to stay in the group no matter what. Soon she had abandoned her standards and her grades were falling. The other girl decided they weren’t real friends if they didn’t respect her standards and that she didn’t want to stay friends with them. She knew she could be arrested if she were with them when they drank alcohol, even if she wasn’t drinking herself. She talked to a school counselor and got moved to new classes and a new lunch hour. She soon found new friends who had higher standards and who respected her when she chose to live higher standards.
Ask the following questions of your children and guide them in a discussion. Use this time to really listen to your children, to understand how they view these issues. If you make it safe for them to express their true opinions, you are more likely to learn how they feel and they are more likely to listen when you express your own feelings. Listen as they explain why they feel as they do, and guide them respectfully when you are concerned about their choices. You might want to list the questions on a board or write them on word strips.
- Do you feel it is safe to have friends who have different moral standards than yours?
- Do you have a limit on the kinds of differences in morality you’ll accept in a friend? For instance, what do you do if your friends drink, smoke, or steal? Is it still okay to be friends with them?
- What do you do when your friends want you to do something you know is wrong?
- How do your friends treat your high standards?
- Do you find it easy or hard to maintain your standards when you are with your friends?
- Do you try to help your friends have higher standards? If theirs are even higher than yours, do you respect those standards?
- How do you feel about having friends who belong to a different religion than you do? Do you and your friends share your religious traditions and experiences with each other? How do you show respect for the religions of your friends? How do they show respect for yours?
- How do you choose friends?
- At what point would you end a friendship?<%