There’s a quote of unknown origin about friendship that you may have seen before and seems particularly pertinent since the world was turned upside down by Coronavirus at the beginning of last year:
“Good friends are like stars, you don’t always see them, but you know they’re always there.”
Whilst this certainly true of long held friendships, being physically isolated from friends for a long period of time and being unable to participate in the activities and bonding experiences friendships are forged through, can make it much more challenging to maintain them. This is especially the case when it comes to new, less secure, developing friendships often made when we are younger and still figuring out who we want to be. Even before the pandemic, a growing number of young people were finding it difficult to make friends.
Although technology has been a huge help, enabling us to ‘see’ our friends through video calling, this can often feel unnatural and exacerbate any feelings of self-consciousness. Maintaining friendships via social media is also fraught with well-documented pitfalls. In the absence of the physical presence of our friends and the spontaneity and warmth of face-to-face interaction, and when we are all struggling with the added challenges of everyday life during a pandemic, it can be easy to turn inwards and neglect our friendships. Feeling overwhelmed zaps the energy we might usually reserve for engaging with others.
So, how can we make sure our friendships, both new and old, remain strong and those we care about know we are always there?
An unexpected parcel arriving on my doorstep recently was the reminder I needed that ‘friendships refresh the soul and awaken our hearts with joy’ (Proverbs 27:9) and that even though we can’t be with our friends at the moment, we can remind them of our presence and our love. This thoughtful gesture of friendship also prompted me to turn outwards and ‘pay it forward’ by thinking about how I might be able to support other friends who may need to be reminded that they are not alone during this difficult time.
A quick online search reveals the many creative ways in which people around the world are maintaining and nurturing their friendships during this crisis. Shared music playlists, sending letters, cards or gifts in the post, sharing videos and picture collages, writing poems, baking cakes, making treasure hunts and trails for friends’ daily walks and many more wonderful and inventive ideas.
As teachers and parents with our own friendships to maintain, we also need to help the children and young people in our care to think about how they can nurture their friendships during this time of isolation. We may be able to model this ourselves by sharing the ways in which we try to stay in contact with our own friends but also by helping children to explore what friendship means to them. What are the qualities of a good friend and how do they make us feel? Our free resources are a great place to start and can be used both in the classroom and for home learning