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From the moment I met him, I knew I wanted Scott for a friend. Over the next 20 years I intentionally communicated with him and we built our friendship to the point where I’m almost certain we share a brain. I have no doubt that he and I are lifelong friends. A relationship like that doesn’t just come along every day. And, relationships like that don’t just happen magically; they happen INTENTIONALLY.

We have the opportunity to build quality, long-term relationships with intentional interaction.

Our children are growing up in an age where social interaction is constant. It’s hard to unplug. It seems impossible to opt-out. Communication is a constant, but the true connection is often missing. Our children may be mistaking quantity of messages for quality of messages. When our children understand intentional communication, they will be able to move past basic interaction and find real connection. Equipped with this, our children will have the tools they need to start, develop, and maintain strong, lasting relationships.

How can we teach this valuable skill to our children?

Starting a friendship

Friendships are an important part of a child’s social needs. For some kids, making friends is easy. For others, it’s a challenging or perhaps even frightening concept. Have your child start by practicing introducing themself to you. “Hi, I’m Sam, what’s your name? It’s nice to meet you, ______. Do you want to play together?” Once they feel comfortable, challenge them to try to make a new friend at school. They could also try to make a new friend at the park under your supervision.

Developing a relationship

Making a new friend is like planting a seed. We want the seed to grow into a long-lasting friendship, but, just like a plant, it can’t happen without proper care. A plant needs sunlight, water, and good soil. A friendship requires investment in order for it to grow too. This is where intentional communication is key. Here are a few ways your child can grow their friendships:

-Talk to their friend A LOT! Ask them questions about their day, or their life, or their favorite activities. This shows an intentional interest in the other person.

-Spend time with their friend. Arrange a play date and have them play doing what their friend wants to do.

-Thank them for being a friend. Express joy at being together. “I’m so glad you came over to play today.” “Thanks for being a great friend!”

Closing the Gap

Some of the most important people to stay connected to are family members. Family is family for life. But staying connected is hard, especially when we live far away from each other or don’t spend a lot of time together. How do we close the gap?

In my family we have a concept called, “The Love Bank.” This is an invisible bank that gets withdrawals and deposits. Love deposits are things like a phone call, a hug, or a compliment. Withdrawals are things that make one feel unloved, like a harsh word or impatience.

Ask your child how full they think a few family member’s love banks are. (Have them show you on their chest. A hand held down by their belly button is pretty low. Halfway up their chest is okay. If they put their hand up by their neck, the love bank is very full.) Take steps to fill the love bank and close the gap between your family and loved ones who don’t live close by.

Now comes the challenge:

Have your child pick a relationship to strengthen. With your help, have them come up with a list of 3 ways they can make the relationship stronger. It could be things like: play together, send them a card, talk to them on the phone or facetime each other, give them a present… Make a plan and then – Follow the plan!

My closest friends bring joy into my life. I know I can count on them. They hold me accountable to high standards of excellence. They challenge me to be better today than I was yesterday. When our children are equipped to communicate intentionally, they are equipped to develop these valuable relationships for themselves. And that is a goal worth striving for. I hope you will join me in being intentional about teaching intentional communication this week.

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