Friendships can be confusing, especially for kids. Given the wide range of social skills in a single classroom, it’s no wonder that friendship struggles regularly unfold.
In my work with kids, I like to explore the hidden truths of friendship. As I share these truths, I always feel a collective sense of relief in the room.
Here are five hidden truths about friendship that kids find especially helpful:
Five Hidden Friendship Truths
Truth #1: Friendships change over time
Friendship changes can be difficult and confusing for kids, but it’s common in elementary and middle school. Being placed in different classes or even group dynamics can prompt friendship changes at this age. Understanding that change is normal may not make it easier or less painful, but it helps a little. Be sure to remind kids that all we can really control is ourselves by being the type of friend we want to have.
Truth #2: Everyone develops healthy friendship skills at a different pace, so misunderstandings happen
Friendship requires many skills, like communication, flexibility, respect and honesty. Because kids are developing these skills at different rates, conflict and mistakes are common. Encourage kids to keep practicing healthy friendship skills and to apologize when they goof up. Everyone makes mistakes, but friends recognize their mistakes, apologize and try not to make the same mistake again.
Truth #3: Healthy friendships feel safe and accepting
Elementary school is a great time to begin to discuss the qualities of healthy friendships. Encourage kids to notice which friendships feel safe and accepting. Remind kids that sometimes kids with really strong friendship qualities may not have the “most” friends. And that sometimes kids with the “most” friends do not make the “best” friends.
Truth #4: “Close friendships” can be hard to find and may not happen until middle school or later
Most kids have a range of kids that fall into the “friend” category, including classmates, neighbors, teammates, etc. For some kids, “close friends” are harder to find. In fact, many kids may not have any “close friends” until middle school or later. This can be a relief to kids that feel like everyone has a best friend except them. It’s important for all kids to have a friend, but close friendships may not happen for some kids until later.
Truth #5: You choose which of your friendships to grow. Grow the healthy ones!
Kids sometimes don’t realize that they can choose to put more energy into the friendships they want to grow. Encourage kids to treat everyone with kindness and respect, but remind them that they can put more time and energy into growing their healthy friendships. And encourage kids to stay open to making new friends too.
It’s hard to watch our kids struggle in friendship. I hope these hidden truths provide a little insight as you support your child through the inevitable bumps in the road.
My new book, BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? A Girls Guide to Happy Friendship, (to be published in 2020 by Familius) explores these hidden truths and more. I’m hoping to publish a version of this book for boys someday as well!