Over the past year, I’ve been sharing posts about the Friendship Truths from BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? A Girls Guide to Happy Friendships. These truths normalize everyday experiences and help preteens, teens, and adults navigate relationships. Here’s the final post in this series, Friendship Truth #9.
Friendship Truth #9: You Choose Which of Your Friendship To Grow. Grow the Healthy Ones.
The social networks of kids and teens are complex webs. These webs may include friendship groups, classmates, acquaintances, neighbors, teammates, etc. Because this network is intertwined, it is no easy task for kids who want to stop engaging with someone.
For example, if they want to end a friendship with someone in their friend group, how do they navigate that? Or, how do they move away from friendship with a person they sit next to in class every day? Navigating friendship changes is tricky, especially for kids and teens.
Friendship Truth #9
Yet, it is possible to make space with grace in some relationships and put more energy into others. That brings up Friendship Truth #9: You choose which of your friendship to grow. Grow the healthy ones.
Kids sometimes think they are being inauthentic if they are not upfront with someone they don’t like or want to be friends with. They may feel they need to share exactly what is on their mind and formally break off the relationship.
In reality, it’s helpful for kids to learn that this is not inauthentic. It happens all the time. By adulthood, people learn how to be civil and kind to people they don’t want to cultivate a friendship with, whether at work, in neighborhoods, in family networks, etc.
So how do kids make space with grace in some friendships and put more energy into growing others?
- Politely declining invitations to hang out one-on-one with someone you don’t wish to pursue a friendship with and being kind in group settings
- Avoiding aligning others against someone or talking about that person in a bad way with friends
- Spending more time and energy on friendships that are reciprocal and supportive
However, this is not easy in the complex social networks of kids and teens. In any circumstance, kids (and adults) tend to do their best with their skills and circumstances. As kids and teens develop social-emotional skills, they learn how to navigate Friendship Truth #9. They learn to resolve conflict, set/respect boundaries, and connect with others. It’s a process of trial and error as they learn about themselves and their relationships.
- Empathize and validate emotions – Recognize how hard it is to navigate the situation. Let kids share their experiences without jumping in to fix or judge. By listening, caregivers give space for kids to process their experiences and emotions.
- Encourage kids to think about how they might resolve the conflict and/or create space with grace – Have them identify ways they might create space or resolve the conflict. Encourage kids to think about other friendships and groups just in case things do not work out as planned. When it comes to adolescent friendship, it’s a good idea not to have all eggs in one basket.
- Remind them that everyone changes – Kids make significant changes throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Often the trickiest kids in elementary and middle school grow into very different people in high school and beyond. At the same time, encourage kids to notice friendships that feel good and encourage them to put their energy into these friends.
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 (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 or follow on Instagram – @Jessica_Speer_Author