February Is International Friendship Month!

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Beth Pinyerd

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

What a wonderful month, February, for us to celebrate our friends! Feb. 7 is “Send a Card to a Friend Day,” and Feb. 14 is Valentine’s Day. In Classroom Observer this week, I would like to address guiding young children to make friends and sending notes to your young children that truly spell love for them.

I love Helen Keller, who was deaf and blind; she was a well-known educator, author and lecturer whom I truly admired as a child and teacher. She encourages all of us with her faith, hope and attitude of never giving up. She stated, which we can put to heart because she truly understood, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” She understood the value of friendships.

I love sharing with children the treasure of making friends by teaching them this song, which I learned in school and Girl Scouts. “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver, and the other is gold.”

When young children begin to discover the joy of friendship, their world opens up to new relationships and socialization skills. A lot of this depends on the age of your child. When children are young and are having difficulty making friends with other children, we as parents and teachers can role play with our children. Being patient and letting them do a “pretend meal” for you or even playing dolls or teddy bears with them teaches them how to interact with other children.

Listen closely to your child about children they may like to play with at school or preschool. In teaching them social interaction and how to relate to other children, start with one or two children your child might like to play with. Check with these children’s parents and invite them over to play.

When inviting children over to play, it is wise to plan activities such as going to the park, playing games outside or inside, viewing a favorite video or enjoying a favorite snack together. Young children are so very happy doing the simple things. The main social-interaction goal is having your young children get along with others.

We must keep in mind that play is their work, even in friendships. It is necessary for parents to quietly oversee the play of friends, especially if it is their first time to play. As a parent you don’t want to dominate or control their play, but you mainly want to facilitate their play.

Children consider their pets to be their friends. They play for hours with their furry friends such as dogs, cats or hamsters. Taking care of goldfish by feeding them, as well as cleaning out their bowls, helps to instill a sense of care and responsibility, which is necessary in friendships. A treasured friendship for all of us young or old is like a rainbow promise.

As an early-childhood teacher, I look forward to the month of February because of the many creative opportunities it offers for children to express love on Valentine’s Day. Beautiful lace doilies, heart stickers, drawing and cutting out paper hearts to celebrate this day in the classroom, as well as at home, is part of an annual winter holiday we look forward to. Why wait until Valentine’s Day to send love notes? Let’s celebrate every day in sending notes of love to our children.

I know we have e-mail, text and Twitter to send quick notes to our children, but one way to send love and encouragement to your child is with handwritten notes. Yes, it does take time to do this in writing, but the heartfelt gratitude that this brings to a young child’s heart brings lifetime memories and benefits. Time spent doing this spells LOVE.

As a teacher, I have seen how it encourages children when they realize they have received a note from mom, dad or a grandparent. I have seen little fellows and gals cling on to a simple yellow Post-it note from mom or dad all day long. It brings joy and security from home to school. Too, young students love to get simple notes from their teachers as well.

In sending a love note, let your children know that you unconditionally love them for “who they are” and how God made them with their personalities and gifts. As we all know, praise and compliments go a long way in encouraging young hearts. In fact, we adults are given a boost of confidence and happiness when we are praised for our efforts in our work or when we are serving.

This same expression of praise goes a long way with young children too. In a love note, specifically noting how they may have helped you by cleaning their rooms, helping to set the table for a meal, cleaning up after a meal, feeding and taking care of their pets or picking up paper off the floor expresses special feelings to your child that they are so quick to emotionally respond to. Too, it expresses gratitude for what they do. We all want to feel appreciated.

Too, notes of encouragement are so important. If a child is facing weekly tests at school or other challenges, a note to let them know that you are praying and pulling for them to do well goes a long way. Our world is so busy, and raising children can be a challenge. We all make mistakes. A verbal “Will you forgive me?” is good, but this is done quickly and we go on with our day. A written “Will you forgive me?” note is one that a child will absolutely learn from.

Children love to find surprise notes in unexpected places. As a teacher, I love to stick encouragement notes under desktops, chairs, student folders, etc. As a parent, you can slip notes in lunch boxes, backpacks, Post-it notes on bathroom mirrors, a child’s pillow, by their breakfast plate and even in their clothes or shoes.

One of the greatest books of love notes that we receive from our Heavenly Father is the Bible. What a wonderful book of truthful notes that map out how we should live our lives. What a loving God we have who sends us notes every day in HIS Word as well as HIS world! Psalm 119:105: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Truly these notes encourage our children to know the truth. Sharing a Bible verse note with your child is a wonderful daily gift.

Beth Pinyerd
Classroom Observer

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