Not so much. But what I have learned when it comes to encouraging healthy and long-lasting friendships between my tween son and other boys his age was eye-opening to me, and I hope it will be equally revelatory for you and your family.
Encouraging Friendships in Tween Boys
Look to your family
I’m not just talking about looking to your family for advice when it comes to potential friends for your tween son, but literally looking into your family tree. Let’s face it, friends may come and go, but family lasts forever. Perhaps you only have one son, but there may be a cousin or even a second cousin twice removed somewhere in your family tree that could make a great pal for your boy. That way, not only is there someone that you know he can buddy around with on family reunions and summer vacations, but it’s also a confidant he can turn to as he gets older when family dynamics can become challenging.
Don’t ignore “framily”
For those of us who are only children or may not come from a large family, my first tip just might not apply. So what’s a mom to do? Expand your Framily! What’s that you ask? Family is simply a modern term for friends that are like family to you. We have friends we spend at least two major holidays a year with, and they happen to have two boys exactly 6 months older and 8 months younger than my son, making them the perfect candidates for “cousins”. This term gives them a deeper bond than your average, everyday friend, but typically involves less bickering than you’d find with a sibling or cousin.
Carefully consider activities
This has been the mind-blower for me. Sure, as parents we introduce our kids to a lot of different activities and sports as our kids grow in hopes of finding one they excel in (or at least something that they’ll commit to for longer than six weeks). But more than what they do on the field, I find the time they spend off the field can be the most telling. So the next time you’re looking to stick your kid in lessons of some kind, don’t just look at WHAT they’ll be doing, examine WHO they’ll be doing it with; you just might find their new best friend! And let’s face it, males bond more over DOING than they do over TALKING.
Speaking of doing…
The time will come when your tween boy has questions: about life, about girls, about their bodies…the list goes on. Chances are they’re going to turn to their closest friends for advice in middle school before they run to you. Before they will feel comfortable enough trusting someone with their deepest concerns, they need to trust them. To this day, I haven’t seen my son pinkie-swear with anyone, but I have seen him kick a soccer ball or throw a football longer than he may have wanted from an activity standpoint, simply to show solidarity with a friend who may have needed a little extra time from him. And if he’s looking for advice from beyond the family of how to navigate the sometimes rocky waters of growing up, have him check out the new book, Young and Beardless. John Luke Robertson (of Duck Dynasty fame) not only shares his story of what it’s like to grow up as a Robertson and all the fun and craziness that entails, but he also shares what it’s like to navigate the walk from boyhood to becoming a man. One of the main focuses of the book is friendship, but he also addresses the importance of kindness, dreaming big, embracing your God-given uniqueness, taking chances, and choosing mentors. Whoever your tween son decides to hang out with, there is one key that trumps all the aforementioned advice: make sure they know they’re always welcome in YOUR home. We may have parameters about where our kids hang out, but I ALWAYS want my kids to not only feel comfortable bringing their friends home, but to WANT to bring their friends to our house over going anywhere else. That involves being willing to whip up a snack and have ample opportunities for activities at a moment’s notice, but it also means getting to know your kids’ friends better (and more importantly, how they act around their friends as opposed to around the family dinner table). Does your tween son have friends? Do you know who they are? Do you like who your son is when he’s around them? If you have trouble answering ANY of these questions (and even if you don’t), you will benefit greatly from having the tween boy crew over to your home. Helping to foster friendships for your tween begins with you being willing to open your front door.
What are your best tips for encouraging tween/teen boy friendships?