Our relationships with others are what define us and bring so much meaning to our lives. But making new friends, as well as maintaining old ones, requires effort and intention to keep them strong. Here are some tips to help you forge new relationships and nurture the ones you already have.
“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”
– Helen Keller
Focus on gifts. Instead of focusing on the needs in our loved ones lives, focus on what they have to contribute – their gifts, talents and passions.
Ask. Asking can be hard. Yet reaching out and inviting people to join us for coffee, to go to a show together is integral to developing and deepening our relationships.
Share. Friendships are often formed based on a shared interest or activity. Avid hockey fans watching a game together has a way of making disability fade into the background.
Be open. We need to put time aside to spend with friends. For many people with disabilities, much of their lives may be programmed. We need to be more open with our schedules to create the space to allow others to engage with our relative.
Be intentional. Friendships don’t grow on their own. In order to nourish and develop relationships we need to put time and energy into making connections happen.
Repeat. We know from our own lives that friendships can be born simply out of time. Seeing the same people again and again when we visit places regularly or are involved in groups that meet up on a regular basis. Many successful networks are built by going to the same places daily so that those in the community come to know and connect with our relatives.
Work. One of the best ways to build authentic friendships is in the workplace, either through employment or volunteering. Our relative’s gifts and contributions are showcased, trust is built, and others have the opportunity to get to know them in a more personal way.
Nurture. Parents do well to nurture friendship from a very early age by inviting other children to come have fun in their home. These friendships can be life-long-lasting.
Believe. Believing may be the greatest challenge that families face. Many of us are tentative to ask and form new relationships. From experience, we know that no disability can prevent genuine friendships from happening so try not to let fears dominate the opportunities.
Remind. We should remind ourselves of the beauty and richness our family member has added to our lives. Others are likely to see the same things that we see!