Whether you are a child, teenager, or adult, friendship gets tricky sometimes. This article shares three friendship truths to guide kids as they head back to school.
Our social lives are constantly evolving, especially during childhood and adolescence. Some changes are positive, like making new friends. Others are hard, such as dealing with conflict, betrayal, and friendship loss.
The enduring pandemic will prompt more change as kids head back to school. And that’s okay. Change is normal.
What makes social changes during adolescence difficult are often the stories preteens and teens layer on top. A friendship loss may grow to mean that they “must not be good enough.” Or, after a falling out, kids might label a former friend as “bad,” holding tight to resentment.
In reality, these stories are inaccurate and incomplete. They hold kids back, tainting their view of themselves and others. It’s best to ditch these stories altogether. But how?
As kids re-enter their in-person social worlds, the following friendship truths will ground them in our shared humanity. These truths help preteens and teens find compassion for themselves and others. They change the story.
Three Friendship Truths
Friendship truth #1: Friendships have different phases and change over time
Relationships wax and wane throughout life for all sorts of reasons. Just knowing this helps to soften the blow when friendships change or end.
Friendship truth #2: Everyone develops friendship skills at a different pace
Childhood and adolescence are a training ground for learning social-emotional skills. Everyone gains these skills at their own pace, which means social stuff gets messy sometimes.
Friendship truth #3: Everyone makes mistakes
Kids (and adults) mess up all the time in relationships. Since kids did not practice relational skills as much this past year and many families are stressed, mistakes may be even more common than usual.
In Summary – Kids’ Friendship Truths
Recognizing these friendship truths does not mean kids will avoid social discomfort, hurt feelings, or regret. Friendships will change. Conflict will happen. Kids will feel alone at times.
But, these truths help kids learn to be gentle with themselves and others. They encourage kids to ditch the stories and stay open to learning and growing.
Through listening and encouragement, parents play an essential role in helping kids process their emotions, feel heard, loved, and accepted as they navigate inevitable struggles along the way. If your child continues to experience isolation and loneliness, be sure to seek support from a school counselor or other professional.
After an enduring pandemic, heading back to school will be filled with change for all of us. It’s a unique opportunity to start fresh, let go of stories, and stay grounded in our shared humanity. But most of all, it’s time to enjoy some much-needed time with friends.