More than twenty-five years ago, I read an article written by Edith Schaeffer, in which she described her lifelong goal of becoming a best friend to her husband and children. Having three little children at the time, I was quite startled by the novel idea of my children being my “best friends.” My husband had been one of my best friends since college days, but my children were, well, children. How was it possible to build friendship with those I was parenting? I mean, can you imagine telling a dear friend, “Brush your teeth and go to bed right now”?  It seemed slightly ludicrous. However, some years prior, Edith’s book, What Is a Family?,1 had given me a profound glimpse into what it means to have a Christian family. I had learned through my own experience as a wife and mother to trust Edith’s perspective, so I began to consider what changes I must make in my parenting if I were to build a deep and lasting friendship with my children—one that would extend through the years into their adulthood.

Proverbs 18:24 tells us, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly. . .”2 This is a concept we accept, simple and succinct. But what does it mean? If we were to search out the essential elements of being “friendly”—a true friend—our list would certainly include these elements:

- Spending time together
- Being an active and engaged listener
- Finding similar hobbies or areas of interest that can be enjoyed together
- Respecting one another, even if there are differences of opinion
- Being vulnerable and honest with the other
- Knowing we are all safe to be ourselves with the other, accepted and beloved for who we are
- Valuing the other deeply, which leads to loving actions and words
- Learning what communicates love to the other, and then doing it
- Giving sacrificially of our time, our money—even our own desires—in order to benefit the other

Though we might agree with the list (and wish someone would befriend us in this way!), we are left with the question of how we can actually do this within our own very human and imperfect families, especially with the added pressures and extraordinary demands on parents who homeschool. Fortunately, every forward step we take on this list will actually increase the joys and decrease the stresses of parenting! So let us take a brief look at a few of these critical elements and consider practical steps at implementing them.

Spend Time Together 

It sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? If you are homeschooling, you may be thinking, “We are always together!” Yet this time is not the normal “make-your-bed, did-you-finish-your-homework, who-left-the-milk-out” kind of interaction that fills our days. I’m speaking of special time together, the kind that requires thoughtful implementation. What you are seeking is to create environments and opportunities for building friendship: laughing together, doing interesting stuff together, sharing together.

Discover the different activities that delight your spouse and that delight your kids—and one of the best ways is to ask them! Sometimes you will focus on home—host a “family fun” weekend when you fix fun food, read fun books out loud, play fun games, perhaps watch fun DVDs, and no work allowed! Go on some adventures away from home too. For example, go to the zoo, laugh at the funny antics of the “characters” in the zoo, and then discover which animal each one likes best and why!  

It is vital to also have some “alone time” with each member of the family, when you and your spouse or child can share deeply. In order to experience deep sharing, we must carve out a time, a place, and an environment where it is safe to share, where we are free from distractions and secure in knowing we are each valued. It is time well spent, because hearing each other’s thoughts, concerns, dreams, fears, hurts, and joys lays a foundation for trust and connection.