Simi Valley Family Magazine --
Fall 1996 issue
Wendy Wilkinson, M.S.
Do we really need friends? Sometimes friends can be such a bother. Some friends are always wanting something from us, but reluctant to be there when we are in need. Some friends are always glad to hear from us, but never call us in return. Some friends are very critical, others are always needing our advice.
So is it really worth all the effort it takes to make and keep a good friendship? I think it is. Having healthy, adult relationships is part of being a healthy, mature adult. But there are keys to finding and maintaining healthy friendships.
First of all, we should look for a friend with whom we have common interests, goals, of life circumstances. This is why so many of us find our best friends at our place of employment, school, or volunteer organizations. That is where we meet people who have similar interests, goals or values as ourselves.
Secondly, we should look for a friend who is interested in committing the same amount of time and energy into the friendship as we are. Some people have a lot of time for a friendship, some have one or two hours per week to commit to a friendship. There is no magic amount of time to making a friendship work, as long as both friends are satisfied with the amount of time spent, and the level of commitment.
Another important ingredient of a healthy friendship is maintaining good, healthy boundaries with each other. By this I mean that we must treat each other with honesty and with respect. If a friend is being overly critical, we must let them know that their criticism is hurting us rather than helping us. If we are uncomfortable with hugging, and he or she wants a hug every time we see each other, that should be something that can be talked about, and a healthy friend will respect your request to not hug.
When we have a friendship with a common sense of commitment and good boundaries, we will probably have a sense of trust with each other. Good boundaries will ensure that things shared between us will not be gossiped about later. If we depend on each other for something, we will come through. If we are acting foolishly or hurtfully, a friend's confrontation will be loving and honest.
Finally, from a relationship that is honest, trustworthy, committed, and healthy, we will feel connected in a very healthy and nurturing way. Too many of us have felt disconnected from others, or have experienced only relationships with others that are hurtful or overwhelming. Just as our deepest wounds have been a result of hurtful relationships in the past, our present-day relationships can bring about our deepest healing.
Sue White, M.A.
Is there anyone who can come forward to say that their family life hasn't undergone a change lately? Change is inevitable. It may be something as simple as the one hour of time gained in the Fall and then lost in the Spring. Seems relatively minor unless you have young children who are cranky and tired from being thrown off schedule. Maybe the start of a new school year with all the anticipation of a new teacher, added status of being in a higher grade, the prospect of new clothes and new friendships seems like just the change your child needs. Then they return home from school after the first couple of days disenchanted because the teacher is "mean" or "expects too much" or the longed for new friendships take time to develop. Changes in school rules (dress codes, lunchroom procedures etc.) are seen as major catastrophes.
Then there are the changes we see as being more significant from the start -- moving to a new neighborhood or town, a change in the working hours of one of the parents, a best friend moving away, a grandparent or other relative moving into the home. We try our best to prepare our family for these changes, but there is inevitably a period of adjustment, or finding a "new normal" in the household.
Even more serious changes might result from a job loss (our children can be so in tune to our pain and anxiety), a troubled marriage, turbulent teenage years, or a growing depression or health problems in anyone in the family can affect each member.
I could claim to have spent hours researching the subject of change, interviewing families and talking to experts. Instead I can verify most of the above changes to be stressful to family life because I have lived through them with my own family.
Following are several suggestions for helping our family through times of change:
Since change is inevitable and unavoidable, use it as an opportunity to grow, as a launching point for more intimate conversations with family members, as a challenge to learn new skills and different ways of coping.