Friendship for Children

A man told me a story about his 10-year-old son, Jeff — a good student and a well-behaved child. Jeff is somewhat quiet and did not begin to develop strong friendships until the past year. Four boys have become good friends. They play video games and hang out at school together. 

Another boy named Brian interacts with them at times. Brian is not a good student and has problems relating with the other students on occasion. Jeff says that Brian can be irritating, but he chooses not to ignore him and includes him in activities with the other three boys at school. One of Jeff’s good friends Eric had a problem with Brian at school. Brian was reprimanded by the administration. 

Jeff had a sleepover for his birthday. He invited all the boys. Eric told Jeff he was not happy he invited Brian. When they came to his house, Jeff’s father took Eric aside, told him he was aware he had a problem with Brian. He asked him to try to shelve his feelings for the night. Eric agreed. 

The overnight went well. The next week at school, Jeff spoke with Brian. During the conversation, he told Brian that he was irritated that Brian kept interrupting when Jeff talked. The next thing he knew, Jeff was called to the office. The administrator told him that Brian had reported that Jeff told him he was a terrible person, stupid and to get out of his life. 

The administrator asked Jeff his version. Jeff was shocked he was called to the office. He had never had to meet with anyone regarding a complaint. He halted, being anxious, and not knowing how to begin. The administrator commented that he interpreted Jeff’s halting as an admission of having done wrong. He reprimanded him, told him bullying was not accepted in the school. 

Jeff went home and cried while telling his father what happened. Jeff’s father sent a message to the administrator sharing his understanding of what happened. The administrator apologized and called Jeff into his office. They talked, clarifying all of it. He acknowledged to Jeff that he had made a mistake. 

Friendship is a hard process for children. They want to be liked and included. For so many, it is awkward to do this. Children do not understand what people bring with them in their lives. We have a family, we have expectations, we have values and we have prior experiences. It is not always easy being accepted. It is not easy being rejected. 

It is painful to be alone. It is hard to know how to be included. Friendship can be very challenging for children.