My 13 year old son asked me the other day at the kitchen table who my best friends were. I named three. I asked him who his were. He named a couple. We’ve had this conversation periodically over the last 5 years. But this time he asked me why I considered, let’s say, Jane, to be my best friend. I reflected and said, because I can trust her, she accepts me for who I am, and she’s wise. I like that I can rely on her for good advice. The significance of this conversation was his new interest in what qualities make a best friend. And that he saw me as a trusted source of information. In turn, I felt closer to him because he was enquiring about my relational world. I guess we can add each other to our lists of best friends!
How did we get here, to speaking about the real meaning of friendship, teen son and solo mother? I’d say that the most helpful things are:
- being reflective about my relationships and sharing them with my son. By reflective I mean having an objectivity to see both sides, my side as well as my friend’s (like a mirror reflects back). Daniel Siegel www.drdansiegel.com, a prominent neuroscientist and psychotherapist who specialises in brain development, believes that reflectiveness is one of the foundations of mental health. Mental health, in his definition, means the ability to relate to ourselves and others. Definitely look up his books and his Wheel of Awareness.
- Share your reflections selectively. It’s not time to talk openly about romantic relationships (your young teen will just think “yuck!”)
- Share self-responsibly: reflect on and speak about your own reactions and feelings, rather than putting words in another’s mouth
- Reflect on your relationship with your son, tell him when he says something that hurts your connection; be open to when he says he’s hurt by something you’ve said and done, be curious (you might have to take a few breaths first!).