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Mutually Beneficial Relationships

Do you have a best friend? Do you feel that cliques still exist in adulthood? How do you talk to kids today about friends? Does it get easier as they get older? Honestly, with my own experience, I don't know if it is really any easier as an adult.

I encourage my kiddos to have healthy, mutually beneficial relationships. For a 6 and 8 year old, how do I explain this? I, myself, am terrible about initiating relationships with friends. In my day, we didn't have play dates, we just went outside. But today, so much of our lives are scheduled, we have to find time for the friends that are important to us. I start feeling bad when I go weeks or months without talking to my friend or neighbor but its NOT intentional. I'm busy, their busy and when we do get together, we just pick up where we left off. All is well. At least that's how feel but I wonder when I don't return a text message immediately, if my friend will think I'm mad or something is wrong with our relationship.

My daughter will often come home from school in tears because someone was mean or someone called her a name or someone left her out of the group. Even worse someone she thought was her BEST friend is no longer her friend at all. I don't like the terms "BEST Friend", "Besties", "BFF" or any other variation.

So, I explain to my kids what I mean by "mutually beneficial" friends. Its those that make you feel better and you make them feel better. Its those that like you for who you are. Its those that challenge you to be your best self. Its those that support your crazy dreams. Its those that have similar interests and learn alongside you. Its those that provide a shoulder for you to cry on or a cheering squad when you need it. Its those that you can be crazy funny with or just sit in silence. And surprisingly, its usually not all the same person.

I use the example, when I need lifting up or encouragement to keep pursuing my dreams, I reach out to Friend A. When I just want to relax and listen, I reach out to Friend B, she's a talker. When I'm down at work and need to share my frustrations, I call Friend C -- sometimes this friend is very negative and can bring me down but often, I just need to feel that I'm not alone at that moment. When I want to have fun, talking, laughing, I reach out to Friend D! I tell them its ok to have many, many friends and somedays its ok to just be alone and explore who you are as an individual. Most importantly, I encourage them to NOT count the number of friends you have, rather focus on how YOU can be the friend you want your friend to be!

And just to throw in a little extra reminder, I tell them that I am their friend too and I will always be there when they need me, always.

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