I absolutely hated my PE teacher’s words in school.
“OK Sally. OK Fred. You are the team captains. Choose your teams.” Ugh! Please tell me I am not the only one that remembers those days?!!
Then we all awkwardly stared at our feet, willing ourselves not to cry, as one by one names were called. In every single situation there was one common element. Someone is always picked last. It stunk every time, especially if you were the one granted this royal crown. You would run with complete abandon toward the team you were willed to, and hide behind whoever was there, hoping that no one would point out the obvious–that you were “the last one”.
Navigating friendships can be hard at any age and stage of the game. I am in my forties and my body still cringes when I think about going into social situations where I don’t know a soul. Ironically, I am in front of people all the time for a living!!
Friendships can be hard and messy, mostly because we are forced to be vulnerable and we open ourselves up to being hurt. Our true selves are exposed and this can lead us to go places and think things about ourselves that take us into a spiraling swirl of self doubt and unhealthy thinking.
My sons recently have had some friendship issues and had I not previously walked through this with my daughter, at the exact same age, I would have been an emotional wreck. In working with kids and raising my own, I have learned that part of helping kids navigate this is to help them shift their perspectives.
Here are three ways I have learned to help kids understand how to navigate friendships. I pray this offers you some encouragement as you talk with the kids God has placed in your life.
Jesus is the Perfect Friend
Christ chose his disciples with a specific purpose. He wants us to be His and know we belong to Him for the same reason. Sharing Scriptures that reinforce this truth go along way in helping kids understand that Christ came to develop a specific relationship with each one of us.
John 15:16-17 was a specific command to the disciples that Jesus gave and it applies to us today.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another”.
We were each chosen and handpicked by God. He appoints us to have specific interactions, specific experiences and opportunities to share His love. Helping our kids see that God has a purpose in our work, sets them focused on Jesus. They have a goal in mind–a focus- and what kid doesn’t want a mission?
Follow Jesus Example
Kids are hardwired to take. From the minute we are born we begin to have gifts given to us that are necessary for our survival. However, the shift for kids needs to come in helping them see the value in pouring out their lives for others.
This does not have to look messy. One of the ways I help my kids talk through issues with friends is often asking the following questions.
“Do you think there is anything that the other person is dealing with that would make them act that way?”
“How can you encourage your friend?”
“Are there friends that you see that maybe don’t have someone to sit by at lunch, play with at recess, or look at books with in the library?”
“What can I give to my friend, instead of what can I get from them?”
Kids often need to feel empowered to look beyond their own needs. Do not discredit your kids feelings about how they might feel rejected. Help them see that they can turn their thinking into an opportunity to show the fruits of the Spirit at work in their lives and to pray for their friends.
Christ said in Matthew 6:3-4
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Proverbs 11:24-25 promises that
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withhold what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”
Christ promises that when we give to others we will be blessed and it will come full circle.
I often ask my kids if they are part of the kindness boomerang.
They love this analogy.
Am I choosing today to give love out, knowing that without a doubt, God will keep His promises and it will come back to me?
Kids need validation and assurance that their true worth lies in what God says about them and not the lies that Satan points at them. No matter what age we are bombarded with thoughts of “you aren’t enough”. However, God says you are enough and I love you just the way you are. Come to me, sit with me, learn from me, let’s do this together!
Draw, Build, Create, Work it Out
Just like adults, kids need an outlet. You may have heard it before, but I will point it out again that if a kid can’t verbalize what they are feeling, they need a way to express it productively. This can take the form of drawing, building or creating. It also may be the best way that they can understand something.
One of my favorite Bible stories is a scene where Christ is working with some ornery Pharisees. It is found in John 8. A woman was brought to Jesus who was considered “unwanted”.
Her label was based on her past experiences and choices. Her title and reputation were marred, but Jesus does something profound in this passage. The Pharisees had brought her to him with the intention of stoning her and putting her to shame publicly.
“Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with this finger on the ground. As they continued to ask him he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her. And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one…” John 8:5-9, ESV
Can you picture the scene? Ready to stone, mock and ridicule, these men came accusing and throwing insults. Jesus knew they were not going to understand with his words, so he bent down and helped them process it visually. Scholars debate what Jesus wrote or drew in that dirt. But I suspect that maybe they were just given a visual of what they were about to do. They were shown that they needed to think about someone other than themselves. They were shown that Jesus chooses each of us…not based on our past, but instead based on His love for us and that He knows what we will become.
This realization put these mockers to silence. Showing my kids that they can work through their feelings and feel accepted and loved by the Almighty is an enormous step in helping them feel loved and accepted.
When we teach our kids to rest in the promises of God and remember that He chooses us for His own, it settles them and puts a peace in their hearts. It helps them understand that we are a children of God and He will never choose to pick us last. Our God is a God of love, grace, and unending patience. Fixing our eyes firmly on Him can defeat any feelings of doubt, self-esteem, and frustration. The difference with God’s team is there is no one chosen last-only first-everytime!