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Cultivating Healthy Friendships and Wise Boundaries {For Our Tweens & Teens}

Cultivating Healthy Friendships and Wise Boundaries {For Our Tweens & Teens}

How do you cultivate healthy friendships? Today, we're diving into learning the principles of healthy boundaries (for us and for our children), and developing healthy tools that will help our relationships can thrive!

How do you know if a friendship is healthy or on the brink of dysfunction? And how do you know when to put up boundaries, and what exactly those boundaries should look like? 

Wouldn’t you agree that as moms, these are questions we face not only in our own friendships but also as we help our children navigate their peer relationships? 

How do we love like Jesus but also care for our hearts well?

It ain’t easy, sister! I’ve had my own challenges in discerning when it is the right time to pull back or push into a friendship that takes a turn in a challenging direction. And with my older girls, we walked through a really heart-wrenching friendships challenge. The girls that hurt my daughters happened to be the daughters of my dearest friends. I didn’t want to advise my girls to throw the friendships away, but at the same time, there were deep wounded that needed time to heal and wisdom for how to rebuild, if that was ever going to be a possibility. It was a mess I couldn't figure out on my own and even the counsel I sought were uncertain about the best next step. In one quiet morning, while praying and pursuing God for a solution, He gave me the most practical vision for how to move through friendship challenges.

It's what I've come to call the “house approach.” Yes, a house. And I've used this house analogy not only with my girls but also for myself and with my son as well as with a gazillion teens I've mentored and oh . . . my . . . word . . . I've seen God bring about such beautiful healing and restoration in so many relationships.

Boundaries Like a House

INSIDE THE HOUSE

The inside of our house reflects our private lives — where our heart dwells. As such, there are only a few select people that get to hang out there, because the Lord calls us to guard this sacred space (Proverbs 4:23). Our “heart-dwellers” are the people we trust wholeheartedly, like our immediate family, select family members, mentors or teachers, and a few close friends.

OUTSIDE THE HOUSE

Outside of our house is our yard, marked off by a pretty white picket fence (in my dreams).  This is the space for the majority of our friends and extended family members to hang out. They are the people we know well and care about, but are not “our heart dwellers” for a variety of reasons. We might lack common values or beliefs, we may not see each other much, or maybe there has been a break or hurt in our relationship.

BEYOND THE FENCE

Beyond the fence that surrounds our yard is the road, where we get to kindly wave at all the people passing by. These are our acquaintances as well as folks we might see on a regular basis or have known for a long time, but we’re not necessarily close friends. There may come a time in which I invite these folks into my yard, but there is no obligation to do so.

The house analogy simply helps us approach difficult friendships with grace but also prudence, as we seek God to discern what friendships to draw into and which ones to put a little space between.

When it came to the friendship conflict my daughters walked through, we had to move from being “in the house” friends to “beyond the fence” friends for a long season. It was so hard!!! There was much grieving to endure because of the loss. But as God healed all our hearts “front yard” friendships were rekindled. Why my girls walked in forgiveness and grace but with distance with those girls, God continued to move in all their hearts. Years later, those girls sought our forgiveness — yes, even mine. The apologized for everything they had said and done. But the best part was telling them they were already forgiven. In the months that followed, those it was a delight to invite those girls to "step back into our house" — physically and emotionally.  The are now considered my girls dearest life-long friends, and we give all glory to God!

Relationships are messy, but God’s grace can make them beautiful.

How might the house analogy help you navigate friendships for yourself and with your tweens and teens? Is the Lord prompting you to yield a friendship challenge to Him, trusting Him for healing and redemption in His timing?

Seeking Him with You,

Elisa Pulliam

moretobe.com

P.S. If you're looking for more insight on friendships, especially for your tween and teen girls, the Kindness Bundle is a great option along with the ENGAGE Bible Studies for Girls.

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