When a child’s friendship is in trouble you can sit down and discuss the following:
Best friend’ relationships have been immortalised down the years through books exploring the childhood exploits of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn or Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, where young children strike up a lifelong friendship that will be the defining one of their lives. Is this relative today?
But with schools encouraging a more inclusive practice towards friendship, perhaps the days of the best friend forever are numbered. When and not if friendships go wrong this can be very difficult and cause stress and hurt for children involved, for parents, teachers and yes at times the school principal may have to get involved.
For many, school becomes a pressure cooker filled with power struggles, conflicting impulses, physical growth and strong emotions. At the same time, they can develop deep and close friendships, separating from their families and forming their own rewarding social universes.
Child psychologist Sarah O’Doherty says socialise and find friends in different ways at different ages. At the age of six, she explains, finding a friend is all about convenience – which you sit beside or who lives next door. As you get older, at around age nine or 10, friendships are based on similar likes with gravitating towards those with similar interests. In the pre-adolescence years, she says start looking at personality traits and the qualities of a person for friendship.
1. Conflict in a friendship is normal.
All friendships have conflict! Don’t throw away a friendship because of a fight. If you’re not sure if you should forgive your friend, ask “Is our friendship bigger than this fight?” Step back and look at the friendship. Be willing to apologise or reach out if you want to keep the friendship because overall it’s a great one.
2. Boundaries are EVERYTHING.
School friendships are a great time for all our kids to learn the important lesson of boundaries – this lesson will carry them through school friendships, romantic relationships and even workplace dynamics. You teach people how to treat you. What are your friendship deal-breakers? When someone treats you badly — you can call them out on it.
“I really like being your friend but I’m not prepared to be spoken to like that.”
“When you make fun of me like that – I feel hurt. So I’m asking you to stop.”
Take the person aside and talk to them privately. Big conversations have no place online, do it in person. But if your friend at school routinely puts you down and makes fun of you or excludes you. That’s not friendship. Don’t be so desperate to be part of a group that you’re willing to be treated badly to be a member. That is too high a price to pay!
3. If Someone Upsets You
Do not discuss it with everyone else or punish them. That’s called CREATING A DRAMA CYCLONE. You do not need the stress in your life of more drama at school. If someone upsets you, talk to the person about it. And let’s be clear, if someone hurts your feelings or annoys you, you have two choices.
You either get over it (it’s entirely possible the person did not intend to hurt your feelings!)
OR talk to them about it.
The pressure on children to be “NICE ALL THE TIME” means we often take our anger out in covert ways. This is called relational aggression. We are smiling assassins – freezing people out. Excluding them. Talking about them behind their back. THIS IS CREATING A DRAMA CYCLONE. Instead learn how to let it go, or talk to the person privately.
4. You Don’t Own Your Friends.
Your friends are allowed to be friends with other people!! Try to be chilled out about it. It’s not a rejection of you. There are different levels of friendship — you can be friends/friendly with people in your class or after school activities because you have that class/activity in common. Often the friendship doesn’t go further. Your friendly when you’re in that class or activity together, that’s normal! Let your friends explore other friendships without feeling scared they are “replacing” you. You can do the same! Allow other friendships into your life knowing they don’t all have to be your BFF.
5. Friends with Some and Kind to All.
You don’t have to be friends with everyone at school. But you need to be kind. Why? Because school is so much easier and more enjoyable when you make the decision to have a friends that sticks together. Have each other’s backs. Look out for one another. Because at some point at school you are going to be the person who suffers a humiliating moment and you will want those kids around you to treat you with compassion and kindness not use your moment of vulnerability against you.
In all the Buddy Bench programs friendships play a very important role, our motto is:
Look Out For Each other