Friendships Matter!

Summer camp has so many positive influences on a young person’s life, from gaining independence and trying new things, to building self-confidence and simply having a great time.  But what makes all these experiences so much better is sharing them with the friends we make.  It is often said that one of the most amazing and significant parts of the camp experience are the friendships that develop.  But no matter where your friendships begin, friendships are meaningful and beneficial to a happy and healthy life. 

Friendships contribute to healthy psychological development and wellness starting in early childhood and continuing throughout adulthood.  Friendships can be a wonderful source of emotional strength and help us feel more self-confident.  Friendships increase our sense of belonging and purpose.  Friends listen, provide support, and give encouragement.  Friendships allow us to give of ourselves and care for others.  Friends help us grow.  They teach us patience and understanding, and even help us work through conflicts when we don’t see eye to eye.  Friendships provide a sense of peace when we are struggling.   
From a very early age, children are interested in playing with other children.  But friendships provide children with more than just fun playmates, they help children develop emotionally and morally.  In interacting with friends children learn how to communicate, cooperate, and solve problems.  In an article by Millie Ferrer and Anne Fugate at the University of Florida IFAS Extension, research has found that children who lack friends can suffer from emotional difficulties later in life.  A New York Times article, about the Power of Friendship, notes that even having one friend is enough to buffer an anxious, withdrawn child against depression, and seemed to put the brakes on the downward slide toward depression during the pre-teen years.  Nancy McElwain, associate professor of Human Development at the University of Illinois, noted that friendship quality was important for both boys and girls in Kindergarten.  Kindergarten kids with high-quality friendships tended to have fewer behavior problems and better social skills than those whose friendships were of low or moderate quality.  Peer relationships also play an important role in adolescent development and can contribute to a full and rewarding life.  Through friendship youth learn about peer norms, values, and accepted social behaviors.  Youth exchange important emotional, social and practical supports that help them navigate the challenges of adolescence more easily. 

In short, children benefit greatly from having friends. They help a child grow and develop the self-confidence and social skills needed into adulthood.  And having strong friendships into adulthood is likely to increase longevity, reduce stress and once again improve self-esteem.  So even though it takes time to stay in touch, especially when life gets busy, reach out to your friends.  They will keep you happier and healthier for years to come.  Friendships are important and worth the effort. 

“Relationships help people feel that they are worthy, that they are capable, that they can set goals and accomplish them, and that they can control their lives”. 

       Toni Antonucci, professor of psychology, University of Michigan.