During the research phase of writing BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? A Girls Guide to Happy Friendships, I honed in on “friendship truths” that are common yet unfamiliar to many. Truths such as “everyone develops friendship skills at a different pace” and “mistakes happen” are simple but easy to forget, especially during times of struggle.
As humans, we learn and are reminded of these truths throughout life. But, I wondered, what if kids were introduced to them earlier? Could these truths serve as guideposts? Could they help preteens and teens stay connected to the bigger picture of relationships?
So, during my work with kids, I began to share these truths. As we explored healthy relationship skills, we also explored nine friendship truths.
The Result – Testing the BFF or NRF Friendship Truths
The result: These truths helped normalize kids’ experiences. Whether it’s changing friendships, or conflict and mistakes, these truths helped preteens see it wasn’t just them. Relationships are tricky sometimes.
No, these truths do not eliminate discomfort or struggle. Instead, they connect us to our shared humanity. They remind us that we are not alone. That we are worthy. And that others are too.
These “Friendship Truths” eventually grew into the framework for BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? A Girls Guide to Happy Friendships. I’ll dive into the nine Friendship Truths in this series of posts, starting with #1.
Friendship Truth #1: Our healthiest friendships feel safe and accepting.
“Safe and accepting” may not be the words used to describe some preteen and teen friendships. Adolescence is filled with emotional, physical, and intellectual growth that impacts relationships. Yet, finding safe and accepting relationships is an important part of well-being as kids move into adulthood.
In early elementary school, friendships often form based on play and proximity, such as being in the same class or the same neighborhood. Starting in late elementary school and middle school, friendships begin to form based on shared interests and deeper feelings of acceptance.
During this transition, relationship instability often rules. A UCLA study of 6,000 sixth-graders found that two-thirds changed friendships during their first year of middle school. In this Raising Teens Today article, I share Why Social Struggles Peak in Adolescence.
As kids navigate these changes, Friendship Truth #1 is an important reminder: Our healthiest friendships feel safe and accepting.
However, these friendships are hard to find, especially in the preteen and teen years. It’s common for kids to be part of a group where some friendships feel safe and accepting, while others do not. Kids may choose to stay in a friendship or a group that is not a good fit rather than risk isolation. Instead, they might keep an eye out for friendships with qualities that help them feel more accepted and transition when they are ready.
Friendship Truth #1, Our healthiest friendships feel safe and accepting, offers a reminder to stay aware of the health of relationships. Friendship requires a variety of skills, all of which take time and practice to develop. Nobody’s perfect, and no friendship is perfect either.
Learning Friendship Truths Alongside Parents and Caregivers
Parents and caregivers can support their childs’ journey by helping them navigate changes and process uncomfortable emotions. Our children and other peoples’ children are works-in-progress.
Over time, kids develop the social tools needed to live fulfilling lives, such as communicating to solve problems, kindness, managing emotions, flexibility, speaking up, and making new friends. When parents model Friendship Truth #1 in their relationship with their child, it helps kids experience firsthand feelings of safety and acceptance. This foundational experience helps to shape their expectations and needs for relationships, now and into the future.
In the coming weeks, I’ll dive into BFF or NRF’s Friendship Truths #2. Stay tuned!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jessica Speer is the award-winning author of BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? A Girls Guide to Happy Friendships. Her books engage and entertain readers by combining the stories of preteens and teens with fun activities and practical insights. Her second book, Middle School – Safety Goggles Advised (August 2022) unpacks the weird stuff that peaks in middle school. She has a master’s degree in social sciences and explores tricky topics in ways that connect with kids. Jessica Speer’s monthly BLOG focuses on helping kids and families thrive. Please pass it on if you know someone who might appreciate this content! Click here to follow the blog via email or social media.