Loneliness can be a test that we are unable to navigate as adults and can find it extremely challenging to make friends and to navigate the social rules of friendship. Creating social connections begin in our childhood. Although some people might be naturally friendly and able to make lasting social connections- generally it is not as easy for everyone to create those connections. Allah Ta’ala has created us as social creatures- and we need people in our lives to thrive as social beings.
Growing up a few decades ago, we were all part of the extended family circle. We were fortunate to have multiple cousins, aunts, and uncles all around us. We mainly interacted with close family, and it was somehow easier to create connections and long-lasting friendships. Yet as the world has become modernized – we have begun to live separately, and we tend to interact with family mainly over the holiday periods. Our children, feeling that need for friendship, want to visit their friends and cousins. They love the excitement of going over to their friends’ homes and having a change of environment.
As parents there is a deep sense of nervousness, how do we allow our loved children into homes of people that we may not know at all? We feel afraid to allow them to interact with people who we don’t have a good sense of who they are. How do we balance this need for our children to go out and develop connections and relationships, but at the same time we keep them protected from different thoughts and ideologies that might differ to our own?
First and foremost, constantly make dua to Allah Ta’ala to grant your children friends that are pious, that are from the tayyibeen and at the same time make dua that your child is also a good influence on others. In navigating these friendships, we often take our children over to other homes and we can unconsciously slip into sin as we enter other people’s spaces. Be careful of looking down at other children and falling into the trap of thinking that your child is innocent, and it is ‘other’ children who are bad. Allow yourself to be honest with yourself in recognizing your child’s weaknesses and always giving the benefit of the doubt to both parties.
When entering another’s home, it is imperative that we teach our children how to maintain the values and principles that they have learnt at home. We must constantly remind them to respect the boundaries of another person’s space.
We often teach our children to respect the physical things – we would never allow them to take things that don’t belong to them- however more importantly we have to inculcate into our children that they should not take any part of the honor of a mu’min. This means that we should inculcate in them the importance of not carrying stories from one home to another home. We must be careful when we are looking for feedback – we love to hear from our kids about their day, but at the same time we shouldn’t entertain backbiting or suspicion without any facts attached to it.
At the same time as parents, we tend to prepare for our children’s friends, and we have snacks ready and entertainment. Yet it becomes so easy for us to look down at the parenting choices of other parents. We begin to look down at other parents and then begin to mention this in passing. The reality is that those comments might seem meaningless but often are the reason for a lot of anxiety and unnecessary upset. Our Deen grants us a beautiful guideline in that we are taught to not even look into the home of another Muslim without permission.
We need to encourage our children to learn the skill of forming new bonds. If they learn this as children and can create meaningful connections, this will allow them to bond with people as adults. In setting up playdates for little children we should ensure that our kids are reminded of their manners in another’s home. We should facilitate a snack or some goodies to share when they visit and at the same time, we should ensure that they do not overstay their welcome by only going for an hour or two.
As children turn to the tween and teen years, friendships take a massive turn. At this point in time, we cannot hold them to our own friends. Sometimes as a parent you would love if your child naturally loved your own friends’ kids – but as they are learning more about themselves you must give them the space to develop their own likes and dislikes. To find out who they connect with and to create a meaningful friendship. At this age, encourage autonomy in kids and move away from micromanaging every decision. Allow them the space to call and set up the invite and set out a framework for what they would like to do in this time – within the boundaries that you have set out.
Allah Ta’ala references the friendship that does not have taqwa as a basis in the Holy Qur’an- these friendships will result in total enmity on the day of Qiyamah. Therefore, as a parent it is integral that you make a determined dua to Allah to grant your children good friends- and at the same time teach them the skill of making and choosing friends. If we totally prohibit our children and stifle their ability to learn this skill through trial and error – we are only pushing them to create friendships that they don’t share with us.
الْأَخِلَّاءُ يَوْمَئِذٍ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ عَدُوٌّ إِلَّا الْمُتَّقِينَ
“On that day, friends will be one another’s enemies, except for those who possess taqwa”.