Would you agree that it can feel really good to like and be liked by other people?
Being part of a group of friends can also bring a sense of belonging as well as be a lot of fun. While friendships are vital for all of us throughout our lives, peer groups and social relations among friends gain increasing importance during puberty and adolescence.
As the peer group becomes a more significant source of influence, friendships begin to take on new meaning which can mean they are often put to the test during middle and secondary school.
Problems can occur when people form “cliques,” begin to “hang out” with different crowds, or when they simply grow apart from previous friends. Peer pressure can of course be a problem for adolescents at this time too. Inevitably, the friends your child chooses can shape their experiences in important ways.
Here are some ways to help your child consider the characteristics of a good friend:
- Remind your child about the concept of positive, healthy friendships
- Acknowledge the links between healthy friendships and positive self-esteem
- Help your child to consider the reasons it is important to have good friends
- Help them to think about their own criteria for healthy friendships
- Help them to explore strategies to deal with difficult situations in friendships
STOP, MOVE SLOW and GO
If you are looking for another way to approach the topic of friendships with your child, using a traffic light analogy may be helpful to further discuss the unhealthy signs, warning signs and healthy signs that can occur in friendships.
RED LIGHT: These are unhealthy/bad signs in a friendship.
- You are afraid of your friend’s temper
- Your friend criticizes you or people you care about
- Your friend threatens to hurt you.
- Your friend bullies and makes fun of you or other kids at school
- Your friend pressures you to do things you do not want to do.
AMBER LIGHT: These are warning signs in a friendship.
- You are nervous that if you tell your friend something personal, s/he will tell other people at school.
- Your friend sometimes makes fun of you
- You rarely get to plan what the two of you will do together
- Your friend tells you not to hang out with certain people
- You say that you agree with your friend, even when you really don’t
- You are afraid they won’t be your friend anymore if you disagree.
GREEN LIGHT: These are healthy/good signs in a friendship.
- You usually feel happy when you are with this person
- Your friend respects your feelings and your opinions
- Your friend talks to you about his/her feelings
- Your friend is happy when good things happen to you
- You enjoy being with this person, but you also enjoy spending time with other friends.
Even just initiating a brief conversation with your child about how to choose healthy friendships may be helpful. At the very least it may plant some ‘seeds of thought’ for your child to ponder over themselves and empower them to assert greater choice with their peer group.
If your child needs any further support with navigating friendships, contact us to arrange a time to talk through these issues and find a pathway forward that allows them to feel more confident in forming and maintaining healthy friendships.
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