The United Nations declared July 30 as International Day of Friendship. I honored the day by taking time to reflect on the benefits of friendship and the universal bond of motherhood:
It was my early days in New York City, having moved from Bali, Indonesia. The move to New York was proving to be a hard one. I left behind a lot in that move: a beautiful garden, house help, a nanny, and year round sunshine. The most important thing that I left—something I didn’t realize the magnitude of until I was in my new environment—was a tribe of friends like none I had ever known.
Aside from being the people who could make me laugh until my sides hurt, or hold intellectual conversations that taught and challenged me, my friends in Bali also showed up for my son and me in ways I hadn’t realized I needed. I rarely had to ask, they just showed up in truly magical ways. We were a crew of people from across the globe, brought together for a shared work environment, quickly bonded together as a chosen family.
I was lucky with that move. In retrospect, I had been lucky in so many of my work related moves, always finding a magnificent network of friends pretty quickly in the transition. My New York move, back to my home country, however, was proving to be more challenging.
For a variety of reasons, I was just struggling to find my tribe, and with day to day life being harder than I had experienced in the past, (no more help!) I was often overwhelmed. I have never been good at knowing how (or when) to ask for help, so I just waded through it thinking that this was the new normal for me. I was overlooking one important branch of my tribe: World Mom’s Network.
I am not sure how it all came about now, my memory has morphed it all like it was some superhero cartoon moment where Jennifer Burden, the founder of WMN, and editor Elizabeth Atalay swooped in wearing capes to help me out. I know I wrote to my editor to say: “I need to step back from World Moms, I am just too overwhelmed with life…” And then there was a text from Jennifer saying: “What can I do?!?!” and in my discomfort with asking for help, I weakly said: “I don’t know! Maybe get my son out of the house so I can get some work done?”
Without hesitation, the two women came and took my son, along with Jennifer’s two daughters, out for pizza and a walk in the VERY cold park, giving me a few hours to work. Their gesture contributed a lot more than that to my life. Up until that moment, these were people whom I had only known through our social media group, World Moms Network, yet here they were, dropping their lives to step in and help me out. They showed up. They encouraged me to ask for help. They reminded me of the importance of reaching out. They modeled the values of the World Moms Network: women showing up to support other women.
This one small example of friendship in action speaks to the benefits of having your tribe. The benefits of friendship are so far reaching that the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 30 July as International Day of Friendship, with the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.
While the resolution places focus on involving young people, as future leaders, in events that include different cultures and promote international understanding and respect for diversity, the day has become a time for all people to celebrate the friendships in their lives.
The benefits of finding your tribe:
The old adage says that friends are our “chosen family,” or “found family.” They are the people who have intentionally chosen to embrace us for all that we are, sharing our interests and values, and often encouraging us to be our best selves. Our friendship groups can become our tribe, seeing us through the many stages of life. While we can all speak to the value of friends for fun, research also tells us that having friends is an important part of our overall well being.
Friends are good for our mental and physical well-being, even contributing to longevity of life. Having a close circle of friends can decrease certain health risks like diabetes, depression, heart attack, and stroke. A study published by PNAS, found that people with a friendship network live up to 50% longer than those who do not. (1) A small Harvard study also found that friends can help to reduce the hormone cortisol in times of stress. (2) These studies, and many more, show that friendships are an important element in our physical and mental health. While many people may be tempted to withdraw during hard times, research shows that we are likely to weather it better when we have friends by our side.
One reason for the potential longevity factor is that friends can help encourage us as we go through lifestyle changes. For example, friends can help us set and achieve healthy goals, serving as accountability partners. Friends can also alert us when we are getting off track, or when certain behaviors get out of hand (like overworking, or drinking too much). (3) People are more motivated to take on changes and maintain healthy behaviors when they are surrounded by people with similar goals, and have a group encouraging them along the way. Do you want to get fit, or stay on track with healthy eating? Consider forming a friendship walking group, or if that’s not possible, create a texting group with friends who share the same goal; a daily check in can be the thing that helps you stay on track!
Friends can also help us to step outside of our comfort zone, taking on new activities and learning about things we may not have considered without their influence. I often credit my friends with being my resource for courage- I know I never would have gone ziplining or rafting down a rapid river if it weren’t for friends introducing me to new activities. I have a group of friends now with a promise of “Yes,” meaning when one says: “Let’s try…” the others say YES.
Friends can serve as valuable mirrors, helping us to see our strengths and reminding us of who we are. They can encourage us when we are down, and offer reassurance when we doubt our abilities. If we are stepping away from our best selves or outside of our values, our friends can serve as a compass that can bring us back home. When I have struggled with something, having a friend say: “The Erin I know would…” has served as a wonderful reminder of my own strengths, and helps boost my spirits to see myself through the positive lens of a friend.
Finding your tribe:
With all of the benefits of friends being listed, it may be obvious that we should choose our friends wisely, as the old adage says: we are the company we keep! Our friendship circles can significantly influence our own lifestyle choices and personal motivation. Selecting our chosen family for their positive influence (and the contributions we can make to their lives) has the potential to make a big difference in the trajectory of our lives.
As we get older, the demands of life can make it hard to find and nurture our friendships. Despite the effort it takes, the benefits are well worth the effort.
A few things you can do to make new friends include:
- Join a fitness center with accountability groups, or join a 30 day fitness challenge to connect with others who are interested in a healthy lifestyle.
- Check out events with social groups like meet up or Internations to find people who share your interests or to find people with a similar zest for new adventures!
- Join affinity groups within your community, either through a local place of worship or community service group. Finding people committed to their beliefs and service can help you connect to people with shared values.
- Connect with World Moms Network contributors and tribe members! Moms from around the world are here to support you and may become your new BFF.
A few things you can do to honor your friendships include:
- Send a handwritten card or flowers for a special occasion or just because! Let your friends know they are on your mind and that you value them.
- Check in with your friends for no reason. A quick call or even just a voice memo to say “I am thinking of you,” can make a world of difference for someone.
- Make a commitment for a once a month friend date, whether that be face to face or online, time together can help strengthen the ties that bind you.
- Avoid being a friendship vampire! Whilst we can benefit a great deal from the friendships in our lives, it is important to consider our own contribution and keep things in balance. Ensure that the give and take in your friendship circle is reciprocal in nature.
When I was in Girl Scouts, we used to sing a song: “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” As I have gone through my life, the truth in that simple little refrain becomes more and more apparent. Friendship, for all of its benefits, is truly worth celebrating. Happy International Day of Friendship!
- Yang YC, Boen C, Gerken K, Li T, Schorpp K, Harris KM. Social relationships and physiological determinants of longevity across the human life span. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016;113(3):578-583. doi:10.1073/pnas.1511085112
- Harvard Medical School. The health benefits of strong relationships. Updated August 6, 2019.
- Craddock E, vanDellen MR, Novak SA, Ranby KW. Influence in relationships: A meta-analysis on health-related social control. Basic Appl Soc Psych. 2015;37(2):118-130. doi:10.1080/01973533.2015.1011271
This is an original post for World Moms Network by our contributor in Switzerland, Erin Threlfall. The photograph of the author with WMN founder, Jennifer Burden (l) and WMN Senior Editor, Elizabeth Atalay (r), is credited to the author.
From the time I knew that I was pregnant, I was doing things to nurture my child’s development: I sang to him, placed speakers on my belly so he could hear classical music, narrated my day and what the world looked like “on the outside,”
My son’s first read-aloud started the day he arrived home from the hospital- a beautiful book entitled The Day You Were Born, and 8 years later, it is still one of his favorite read aloud stories.
He and I played games together, built blocks, and crafted sand castles. When he could finally walk, we zoomed around the house like explorers visiting outer-space.
I did all the things that my uber-aware-parenting -set were advised to do. Read, Talk, Sing, Play. Again and again, each day: Read, Talk, Sing, Play. And then it was time to send him off to school, where he would be doing more of the same to support his rapidly developing mind.
I well recall that feeling when I first sent my son into the preschool classroom environment. It was such an exciting time, and one also filled with questions: Will he feel secure? Will the teachers look after him as I would? Will he settle in and make friends? Will he rest when he is supposed to?
Around the globe, many parents have just had this “first time into school experience.” This time- the first time in school- is seen as the formal beginning of our child’s education, where they will lay the foundation for their learning and schooling for the years to come. What studies have shown us, however, is that the foundation is laid well before our children walk through the classroom doors; the foundation begins as soon as our children are brought into the world.
Research shows us that a child’s brain is 90% developed BEFORE they are 5 years old. That is an incredibly high percentage, which shows us that the things we do at home before our children enter school can determine their early success.
My son was lucky, he had a well-informed (teacher) mom who knew the importance of a language rich home. Many children do not have this advantage. As a result, many children enter school at a deficit, a deficit which, as outlined by Save the Children can have a long-term impact on a child’s life.
As stated by Save the Children:
…if children do not have caring individuals reading, talking and playing with them regularly; access to quality preschool that enhances these skills; and social and emotional development to help them understand how to interact and play with others, they will be behind before they even start. In fact, children living in poverty in the United States and around the world, are not getting the support they need during these early stages of development.
As a mother, teacher, and citizen of the world, these numbers are frightening and unacceptable. They are also heartbreaking. They don’t need to be the case, and Save the Children is on a mission to change this through their See the Future Unfold campaign.
There are many things that can be done to help close this deficit, beginning with simple home intervention plans such as Read, Talk, Sing, Play. This initiative strives to partner with parents, and educate them about the importance of a language rich home where children have the benefits of these simple, but important, developmental opportunities.
But in order for a child to be read to, a family must have access to books. And this is where the World Moms’ Blog community can step in. Together, we can support Save the Children’s initiatives today by making a small donation to their cause. Money raised will help provide books to children, as well as support the efforts for early intervention in poverty-stricken areas.
At this moment, WMB has 4,644 followers on our Facebook page. Imagine if each of us gave just $3 towards buying books for children. That would be enough to provide 4, 644 children with their first book. Can you image how precious that would be for a mother who cannot provide for her child? I know my Son’s first book- The Day you Were Born, means the world to us.
I’m donating as soon as I finish this post. Will you join me?
To participate, and to see how a donation can change a child’s furture, visit the Save the Children website.
What is your favorite children’s book that you read with your own child?
This is an original post written by Erin Threlfall for World Moms Blog.
In January of 2014, I was asked to write about MDG 6 for the Gates Foundation Blog. It was part of an initiative that WMB was taking part in to help raise awareness about the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). At the same time, I was just kicking off a unit in my grade 3 class room about Social Activism.
Our unit’s central idea was: International organizations and individuals can work together to have an impact on local and global issues. During this unit of study, the children would be working to answer the following questions: What are local and global issues? How do individuals and organizations address local and global issues? What are our responsibilities as global citizens? How can we use our interest, skills and talents to have an impact on local and global issues?
It turned out, the Gates Foundation piece was perfectly timed. I shared it with the children as an example of how I was using my skills and talents as a writer to raise awareness and they became inspired to want to use their talents to help make the MDGs a reality.
The children set off researching the MDGs, identifying the major issues, who was helping, and then started to ask if they could do something to help resolve some of the issues. They were especially tuned into development goal #1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and #2: Achieve universal primary education.
We had guest speakers from the United Nations and non-government organizations come in to talk with the children about the work that they do, we had Skype calls with people on the field, and then, as luck would have it, we had the opportunity to interview a young man from Brazil who started a newspaper in his favela when he was ten years old. The Paper’s goal was to raise awareness about issues impacting his community and to help bring about change.
Ten years later, that paper has become one of the most influential tools in impacting change on his favela, and has inspired other communities to follow suit.
My students were blown away by the fact that one ten-year old could have such an important impact on his community. They were motivated to help impact change, but how?
Sometimes, ours is not to know how, but just to have a desire and to ask the right questions. The “how” will find you, and in this case, it definitely did.
Through a series of serendipitous exchanges, at this time I was turned on to the work of two very inspiring people, Francis and Stephanie Lane and their Silent Tapes 50 Kids/50 Cameras project in Brazil. Stephanie and Francis were making their way to a favela in Fortaleza, Brazil during the World Cup to help children capture their world. They gave 50 cameras to 50 kids, and after they were taught photography skills, the kids were set free to capture their world. The project is part of a documentary initiative to bring awareness to the issues facing those living in the Favelas in Brazil. You can learn more about that here.
I told the children about the project, and they felt strongly that it should connect to the children at our school, the United Nations International School. It was their enthusiastic chorus of “PLEASE! Let us get to know the children!” That set the next chain of events into motion.
What has followed is an interdisciplinary cross-cultural project that connected the children in Brazil to the children in my classroom.
In collaboration with Stephanie and Francis, we arranged a pen-pal exchange between the Brazil cohort and mine. My students engaged in the same photography curriculum and captured their world in New York. During the project, we extended our look at the Millennium Development Goals, learned how to write letters, and deepened our geography skills. Perhaps the most important and lasting lesson is that of empathy.
Through the letter and photography exchange, my children became very aware of the impacts of poverty, and the reality of how this shapes another child’s reality. My students have developed a connection with children elsewhere, and really want to work to help improve their lives.
The project has taken on a life of its own. Now having gained sponsorship from UNICEF, we will be hosting a gala in April to showcase the work of the children in New York and Brazil, and to raise funds to help build a community center where the Brazilian children can gain access to education. Finally, the children’s work will be exhibited in the UNICEF wing at the UN headquarters in the spring.
This all came from that one World Moms Blog’s post assignment in which I was asked to write about the MDGs.
The opportunity to serve and make a difference: This is why I became a teacher. To help foster a generation of children who are empowered with the knowledge and skills they need to help make the world a better place. This is also why I started to write with World Mom’s Blog: to join a community of women who desire to help make the world a better place. When working together, we really can “Be the change we wish to see in the world.”
This is an original post written by Erin Threlfall for World Moms Blog.
Has there been a serendipitous chain of events that led to greater things in your life?
World Moms Blog has formed a strong relationship with GAVI Alliance, a public-private organization whose mission is to increase access to life saving immunizations in poor countries. To raise awareness of GAVI’s incredibly important work, WMB contributors have been invited to host “Global Tea Parties,” which are being filmed and made into a documentary film.
When the founder of World Moms Blog, Jennifer Burden, first shared the idea of the GAVI Global Tea Party, and invited Moms from around the globe to host their own, I was thrilled to be a part of the fun.
First, any excuse to host a tea party is a good excuse to me! I grew up with the idea that tea parties are a special way for women to gather together and share stories, celebrate big events, and grow closer in their acquaintance with one another. (more…)
How can Parents help their children to experience success at school?
In many parts of the world, this time of year marks the wind-down to summer holidays and the wind-up for back to school preparations. For some of us Moms, this is the first time our little ones will be strapping on the backpack and carrying the lunch box as they newly enter the school system. For others of us, our children are more in-step with the back to school routines and may carry a mixed bag of emotions about their return to the classroom. For both the novice and the expert school-goer, one point remains the same: parents can greatly contribute to the educational success of their little learners. Following are a few suggestions to help your child start the school year off (and keep it going) on a positive note. (more…)