One of life’s sweetest gifts are our friendships. We are not born to our friends and few of us maintain friendships bound solely by a sense of responsibility. True, reciprocal friendship is the sweetest flavour, and one to savour and share; indeed, it is among the greatest of gifts when you help your children develop the skills needed to become a good friend. It’s a promise that they’ll have a life full of love and laughter, even when things get tough. So what are these skills? It’s not complicated; while some criteria shift and change– having a puppy would put you high on any four-year-old’s list, while a caring ear would go farther for an adult – there are some traits good friends always possess. The method may change, but the criteria does not.
Patience is a virtue for good reason – it’s hard. It can be doubly difficult to practice patience because the learning opportunities usually crop up when stealth is of the essence. But it can be done. A toddler can be reminded how babies don’t understand “wait my turn,” and by modelling our own patience with our often-impetuous children, we also teach them to be patient in turn. Having older brothers and sisters help with zippers and ties instead of complaining that “she’s not getting ready fast enough!” will go miles towards kids being more patient – inside and outside of the house. And wouldn’t that make life a little brighter all around?
Oh, for the unbridled energy of children! - They’ll cheer for almost anything – animals, TV shows, an extra hour of play time and sometimes even just a walk to the store! Though most children are cheerful by nature, everyone needs a boost sometimes. Ask your children how they are doing, and ask often; but also ask them how their friends are. Not only will they love that you are interested in their lives and loves, this conversation can open the door to great opportunities to teaching the true meaning of cheer. If the report is that one friend seems down, or could use some additional happiness, help your child think of ways to make that happen. This pays off not only by your child spreading good cheer and helping others, but also in boomerang effect: what goes out comes back! The more positive energy you and your littles are putting out into the world, the more cheer there will be because cheer breeds cheer. Check out the #BeTheCheer campaign Cheerios is undertaking to bring cheer to our Canadian athletes - it’s a super simple way to show kids the power that even a small amount of cheer can have. Think about the cumulative effect cheer has; we’ve all seen teams go on to win big after increased roars from the crowd. Well, with Cheerios #BeTheCheer program, we can BE that roar!
Canadian athletes work so hard and for most of the year they do it with no recognition. We can change that, and together with our kids we can show them how much we value and appreciate the hard work they do to prepare for competition. Let’s give them a cheer heard far and wide!
Empathy makes us human and allows us to see the world with love, outside our own experiences and bias. Children need empathy and they feel it from loving families and friends. Show your children what empathy is – and I mean literally; teach them what the word is and what it means and how it looks in action. Find a reason or cause to display empathy. Show and tell your kids how they deserve to live in a world that goes beyond tolerating difference and instead appreciates it, for this mindset trickles down and will permeate all their interactions and they will almost never have the words to thank you for it, but trust this: they will.
We talk a lot of being trustworthy, and we should – to be a great friend, you need to be trusted. Your word is your bond and it means something. But what of our ability to trust? Changing times and a prevailing sense of distrust can trickle down into our homes and even children can be cynical. Let’s reframe the conversation about trust and start talking about this: it is an act of love to trust the people we love. Many times, we – adults and children alike – think about what lies beneath an action, instead of taking an act of goodwill at face value. Maybe we should learn to assume positive intent and not get so hurt at the little indiscretions people unwittingly commit each day. Teaching kids to trust their gut about the types of friends they surround themselves also means they are forming communities of people they want to be around.
When everything is headed south (and by south we mean “falling down” and not “going to Miami for a tropical getaway”) one best have a sense of humour if plans for long term survival are priority. A good friend will try to see and point out the best in every situation, but a great friend will entice a laugh while getting you there. Seeing the positive and lending a hand (and a smile) in helping to fix problems is the best part of having and being friends – and it doesn’t matter if you are a set of two or a gang of 20. We can further this trait in our children by encouraging them to help friends, and we can start early by working together. If you know one of your child’s friends is having an issue, talk to your child about ways they can help. Often, it’s not the will, it’s the way. Kids want to help but may not know how. Let’s stock that toolbox with age-appropriate ideas and reinforce the helpful trait in our children.
“Friends” don’t follow “family” on the happiness scale just for the alliteration. Happy children are children who see the world as a warm and welcoming place; one that is empathetic and forgiving and patient. Children who feel supported by friends and family will thrive, and even better – they’ll be well-versed in returning that positive energy and cheer to the world.
Helping spread cheer is a great endeavor any time of the year – and something Cheerios is embracing all year long – even more so right now as our Canadian athletes are gearing up for a banner year. It feels good to be part of something larger than ourselves and we can help kids practice their cheering skills by purchasing a specially marked limited time box of Cheerios Honey Nut Cheerios, Yellow Box Cheerios, or Multigrain Cheerios and writing out the “Cheer” card to be delivered to Team Canada athletes.