Friendships can be life-giving. But they can also be hard, confusing, and stressful. Just ask any middle schooler, and they'll tell you.
My daughter started having friendship problems in 4th grade. Neither my daughter or I saw it coming. The friendships she’s had since she was four starting falling apart. The girls became yo-yos, friends one day and rivals the next. It was heartbreaking. I encouraged my little girl, but nothing I said seemed to stop the tears or stomach aches caused by anxiety.
Up until this point, I had taught her many things, like how to ride a bike, clean her room, and set the dinner table, but I hadn’t taught her what she needed to know to find good friends and maintain healthy relationships. In part because I didn’t think I had to, and also because I wasn’t sure myself.
I struggled with my confusion about friendships. I didn’t understand why some lasted while others didn’t. I couldn’t figure out how to make new friends or deepen the relationships I already had. That was until I discovered...
There is more to friendship than pure chemistry or the lack thereof. << Tweet This
I stopped telling my daughter that things would be ok if she would just be nice to the girls who snubbed her. To wait things out, because I was sure things would get better.
Instead, I taught her some principles of friendship that gave her the confidence to set boundaries and ultimately find her people.
Over time she learned:
- It’s okay to have more than one friend group. Your friends who share your love of reading may be in your book club, but that doesn't mean you have to sit at their lunch table. And the girls you play soccer with, the ones who always have your back on the field, you may never go to their house for a play date. And that's ok.
- All friends are not created equal. One friend doesn't need to be your everything, Just like a potluck dinner. If everybody brought the same dish to the party, the meal would be lousy. Different friends, with their various backgrounds and interests, meet different relational needs. They also bring variety to your life. If you expect everybody to look, dress, and act the same, life will be boring.
- When a friend disses you, many times, it has little to do with you. Most middle school kids are insecure. Many times they don't understand their value and worth, so they look to others to give it to them. It’s no surprise when they gravitate towards the person in their squad that affirms them and their choices, be it good or bad.
- Proximity is the glue that holds many relationships together. Out of sight out of mind hurts but rarely is it a reflection on you. If you have a friend that you like but don't share a class with any more, you will have to be intentional to maintain that relationship.
Equipped with this knowledge, she can be herself around her peers. She is free to focus on being the kind of friend she wants to be rather worry about who may or may not like her.
My daughter's friends may change many times over the next few years but the principles of friendship will not. I hope she remembers them throughout the middle school years and beyond.
Fore More on this topic listen to:
Friending Podcast, Episode 31 Helping Your Kids With Friendship.
Helping your kids with friendship can get sticky. You don't want your child to be the odd one out but you want them to be able to make friends on their own. How do we set them up to be good friends? How much do we get involved?
This post 4 Things Your Middle Schooler Needs to Know About Friendship was originally shared on the Friending Podcast, Episode 31 Helping Your Kids With Friendship.