In BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? A Girls Guide to Happy Friendships, I share nine “Friendship Truths.” These truths help normalize kids’ social experiences. Whether it’s changing friendships, conflict, or mistakes, they help preteens and teens understand it isn’t just them. Relationships are tricky sometimes.
These truths do not eliminate discomfort or struggle. Instead, they connect us to our shared humanity. They remind kids that they are not alone. That they are worthy. And that others are too.
Friendship Truth #4: Close friendships can be hard to find
When 10-year-old Sophia started my friendship group, she felt alone. She had friends, but she didn’t have someone she considered a close friend. When she looked around the lunchroom, it seemed like everyone else was paired up or in tight-knit groups.
Sophia found relief in learning Friendship Truth #4 – Close friendships can be hard to find. This awareness shifted her perspective away from feeling like it was just her.
Preteen & Teen Friendships
The preteen and teen years are a time of increased independence from parents and a growing motivation for connection with peers. Friendships fulfill critical social needs that provide adolescents with a sense of security, validation, and support.
These years are often filled with friendship changes as kids explore their identity and interests change. A minority of students finish middle or high school alongside the same group of friends they started with.
Kids & Loneliness
A study found that most children (80%) experienced periods of feeling lonely at school. These experiences were associated with boredom, inactivity, and a passive attitude towards social interactions. This study also found that children who invested in few friendships were more vulnerable to becoming isolated.
Friendship Truth #4
Friendship Truth #4, close friends can be hard to find, helps kids (and adults) navigate friendship changes and gaps with the awareness that it is normal. Sophia and others in my friendship groups found relief knowing it wasn’t just them. Everybody experiences this. These times can be challenging, but they are not uncommon.
How Can Parents and Caregivers Help?
- Validate kids’ experiences and emotions. Listen deeply as kids process uncomfortable feelings and situations. By naming emotions, kids begin to tame them.
- Remind them that close friendships can be hard to find. Help kids identify classmates, teammates, and neighbors they consider to be friends or possible friends. These friendships may not feel “close,” but they are still important. And some of these relationships may grow closer with time.
- Brainstorm ways to cultivate friendships. Maybe they can join a club or start an activity to meet new people. Or they can reconnect with an old friend or group. Caregivers can also help kids learn how to make and keep friends, such as saying hello, starting conversations, being kind and supportive, etc.
- Find support if your child is becoming increasingly isolated. If isolation, loneliness, and sadness persist, reach out to a counselor or another professional for additional help.
About Jessica Speer
Jessica Speer is the award-winning author of BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? A Girls Guide to Happy Friendships (2021) and Middle School – Safety Goggles Advised (Releasing August 2022). She has a master’s degree in social sciences and explores social-emotional topics in ways that connect with kids. For more information, visit JessicaSpeer.com