Friends for Your Children
Heart to Heart

Friends for Your Children
by Candy Summers

[Editor’s Note: This article was written when Heather was young and is reprinted from There’s No Place Like Home book. Regarding neighborhood outreach, our neighborhood has drastically transformed over the years and is now composed of 6- to 11-year-olds who sadly are raising themselves. They always come to our home to play because their moms usually don’t come home until 7:00, 8:00, or even 9:00 p.m. Even more incredible is that these kids have never even heard of Jesus Christ. Granted because of their lifestyle, we do supervise their visits and limit their time at our home, but we are taking every opportunity to be a witness to these lost children. If we don’t try to reach these kids while they are young and impressionable, we will soon be battling an unrestrained, godless generation that will wreak havoc on society at large, but closer to home, on our children and their children. However, never witness at the expense of your own children. Through the years, we have severed ties with those kids whose influence could possibly have destroyed our children’s innocence. Always allow the Holy Spirit to direct you.]

 Choosing the friends God wants for us and being the friend God wants us to be is so very important. First, we need to define what a true friend really is, especially since so many people refer to mere acquaintances as friends. Reading about friends and friendships in the Bible makes our children aware of God’s divine plan and greatly reduces their risk of disaster from pursuing wrong relation¬ships. So what is a true friend? A real friend is one who is truly sincere, honest, loyal, humble, forgiving, worthy of confidences, giving of time and love, gives and receives exhortation, appreciative, interested, a good listener, shares burdens, and is willing to lay down their life for their friend.
 Does this sound like a familiar relationship? I believe that the relationship between the husband and wife and between the parent and child personifies friendship; and I believe God intended that our life at home would provide the perfect environment for building and protecting this sacred relationship. Later when the child leaves home to begin his or her own home, the mate and offspring would be included in the original friendship, increasing the fold of dear friends. On the contrary, what we see today are adults running around making acquain¬tances with perfect strangers, striving for as many as possible, because “more is better.” Yet, what does God say? “A man of many friends comes to ruin.”
 The grass is always greener on the other side or so it seems. Why do parents run around looking for friends when they possess the best friends they will ever have, right in their own home? This is not to say we shouldn’t have friends outside the family, but most of our time and effort should be spent developing our family ties. Do we get out the linen tablecloth and china for company, or do we serve the best, to the best company we will ever have—our own family? Do we spend hours on the phone talking to acquain¬tances while we’re telling our children to hush, or do we turn it off and talk eye-to-eye with our husband and children? Are our children looking elsewhere for compan¬ionship out of desperation? Friendships take time, and God gave us just enough if only we use it wisely. So, except for our relationship with God, our relationships with our mate and children should be our most important friendships, cherished above all others.
 What about God? “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?” “You shall have no other gods before me.” “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” “Be still and know that I am God.” “Indeed our fellowship is with the Father.” Children must see by our example, the importance of developing their friendship with God. It takes time and they need to know that they must make time, in silence, to walk with God. Our friendships with God and our family set the foundation for all other friendships.
 Playing with other children is important. Certainly, varied opportunities are essential, but running a child from one social whirlwind to another for fulfillment is just that, a whirlwind, and eventually leaves the child confused and unattached to anyone. It also sets a pattern for whirlwinds later in life. Eventually, only constant activity appeases their hunger for true friendship. Cutting down on activities outside the home, not isolating, but paring down and drawing closer together, does more for the suste¬nance of the family and true friendships than anything else.
 Help your child allow God to select his friends and then help him cultivate those friendships. Write down the qualities of a good friendship: sincerity, honesty, loyalty, listening, being interested, showing appreciation, praising good qualities, sharing feelings, keeping confidences, giving time, loving at all times, receiving exhortation, asking forgiveness, forgiving, being humble, working through difficulties…. Discuss them. Act out what good friends would do in different situations. Scrutinize their actions to see if they are good friends. Evaluate each of these friendships. For younger children, read A Kid’s Guide to Making Friends by Jay Wilt.
 Should our children play with non-Christians? Absolutely. The world is a lonely place. Especially with an increase of activity outside the home, with television replacing human interaction, with more mothers working, and with so many broken family relation¬ships, children are desperate for a loving family. We need to be that family. All our children’s playmates should feel welcomed in our homes. They should share meals, worship, conversations, and special activities with us. Even the unpleasant, unruly child is crying out for love and someone to show an interest in them. Take them under your wing.
 Our families are lighthouses to those tossed and thrown around by turbulent storms. Like a beautiful warm fire, we pleasantly warm those barely surviving in this cold world. We don’t fully realize our family’s influence on others, but this is our greatest outreach—neighborhood children. These children will cherish memories with our families, many will come to Christ, and many will make certain their families are just like ours. Sometimes, however, there are children in the neighborhood or even friends’ children who are very wicked. Usually the Holy Spirit makes us feel very uneasy about these children. There’s no reason to subject your children to their influence. We will feel the difference between a wicked heart and a heart that just hasn’t had the proper guidance. Say no and avoid future disaster. Also, we must be very careful to avoid unknown environments. We cannot allow our child to spend time in someone’s home until we are certain of his or her integrity. With pornography so rampant, we must take all precautions necessary to avoid contact—movies, magazines or radio. Heather knows if someone has rock music playing or the television on, she must come home, and she has several times. It’s tough, but visual images leave lasting impressions, and the emotional scars left from viewing evil materials are too great to risk. Our children must learn to be tenderhearted and compassionate toward everyone, but carefully choose God’s best for intimate associations. “Friends” should not be unequally yoked.
 It’s so important that our children develop lasting relationships especially childhood friendships, because as they get older, these friendships will share many memories linking them to the family for life. Help your children develop close friendships with God’s choices and help them to continually keep in touch with these childhood buddies. Links to our past become more important as time passes. Create special time with these friends: picnics, dress-up, plays, musicals, ball games in the yard, tea parties, game night, cooking together, craft projects, formal dining, parties…. And provide a lot of time to play. Make your home inviting. Don’t have off-limit areas. Some people won’t allow their kids in the formal living room or on the new sofa. So why have it if your best friends, your children and their friends, can’t use it? I want my home to be the place everyone loves to come. I’m setting the stage for future home gatherings. If you want a vivid, thought-provoking image, listen to “Cat’s in the Cradle.”
 To help our young children develop more intimate godly friendships, we would select girls and boys from families we admired and gather them together.
 For our “Girls Fellowship” when Heather was growing up and now with Sonia, we had a sewing circle where the girls learned to sew their own clothes. Eventually they were able to create beautiful gowns for our English County Balls. The girls also learned to quilt and knit. One gathering was devoted to cake decorating where they each decorated individual cakes; another to floral arrangements where they created their own garlands. Many times were spent making special crafts.
 At Christmas we always went Christmas shopping downtown, sang Christmas carols, and ended at a festive restaurant. We would also have a formal party at Adams Mark for High Tea. Sometimes the girls brought their favorite cookie recipes and spent the day baking while listening to Christmas carols. Another time, they made gingerbread houses and gingerbread clocks.
 One spring day we visited the Butterfly House, picnicked, and then made butterfly crafts. During the summer we’ve had a Midsummer Eve’s Ball, a Flower Fairy Party, and a Cinderella Party where the girls learned to waltz. In the fall we’ve taken nature walks, went horseback riding, made fall crafts, and shared delightful autumn tea parties.
 At other times, we have celebrated historical time periods—Greek, Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, and Colonial—by having a party. The girls would dress up in authentically created costumes, present reports about the time period, eat period food, and play games.
 One day we started at Francis de Sales Cathedral, where I talked about the cathedrals and services during the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods. We took a tour of the church and then went to Soulard Market to purchase food for our picnic. After we picnicked on the lawn in front of the Art Museum, we went to the Museum’s Middle Ages/Renaissance galleries where I lectured on the art from those time periods. Afterward each girl presented a report on a Renaissance artist.
 Recently I asked the girls to read Sense and Sensibility. Shortly thereafter, we gathered together for a Jane Austen party where we discussed Jane and her book in detail, watched the video, and then dined together in Jane Austen elegance. Our next literary tea will focus on Pride and Prejudice.
 An International Buffet is also in the making where everyone will select a country, write a report to present, and prepare two ethnic dishes to share.
 We just recently started a gathering for our boys. For Jedidiah we went to a leather shop where the boys learned leather tooling. They have spent the day playing hockey, and the fathers took the boys camping. My ideas for other gatherings are taking them trout fishing, a gun safety class, a day of archery, a Medieval banquet, a bike trip through the country, backpacking, horseback riding, a woodworking class, and some fun parties highlighting insects, reptiles, pirates, and cowboys.
 For Josiah, after reading Charlotte’s Web, we’re going to Suson Park and Grant’s Farm to see and pet the farm animals. I’m also planning a trip to Tumbledrum and an expedition to the zoo.
 These experiences are not only interesting, educational, and fun, but they also give the children ample opportunities to develop intimate relationships that will hopefully last a lifetime.
 Can we keep our children from being hurt by others? No, children are terribly cruel to one another. But, we can create a lovely haven of peace, joy, and encourage¬ment and should maintain open loving arms for our children to run to, anytime they need it. Children can weather anything if they know a loving parent waits for them at home. The best thing we can teach our children is to be Christ conscious and not me conscious. This will keep them from noticing when others hurt them, but will make them very sensitive to others’ feelings.
 Of great importance is teaching our children that loneliness is God calling them unto Himself. God called both Moses and David to be alone with Him. During this time, He groomed them to serve Him. Loneliness is an empty feeling and should be an emptying of others so God can fill us up with Himself.
 My playmates and my friends loved coming to my house. Even when I wasn’t home, they would come just to visit with my mom and dad, and still do to this day. Mom and dad still receive calls and letters from hosts of people expressing their deep gratitude for mom and dad’s love and wisdom, and the home they made for them.
 Now in our own neighborhood, children ask us to lead them to becoming Chris¬tians, just because we loved them and included them in our family. It’s nothing to have eight kids playing inside and out, staying for lunch or dinner, all day and evening. Hectic? Sometimes, but overall the sight and sound of them is lovely. Besides, which one might learn to love the Lord and share our Heavenly home because we loved them?
 Friendship begins at home. My mom and dad were my first friends and always my best friends. Then along came Jon and the children. Now, we are all each other’s best friends. Whenever decisions are made, encouragement or prayer needed, activities being planned, we include each other. We talk on the phone several times a day, visit at least once a week, and think of one another constantly. Our relationship hasn’t changed from when I lived at home; our circle of friends has just increased.