Life, movies, and TV shows all show us that friendship can be a very unique relationship. But what does it take to be a good friend and to make great friends?
Who knew choosing friends and keeping them could be so hard? Your parents hate the new girl (or boy) you brought home last week, but you know your new friend is a really good person. Now, dad and mom are trying to keep you away from your friend. Maybe you accidentally missed something that was going on with another friend. Now they’re mad at you and you don’t know what to do to fix things. Maybe you’ve gotten mixed up in a friendship that feels more like… a prison cell now. And you don’t know how to get out of it. You’re privately wondering if you’re involved in an unhealthy friendship. Be a good friend to yourself and start figuring out what’s best for you.
How to Be a Friend to Yourself
You’re probably pretty good at thumping on yourself when you think you’ve goofed up. Most teens are. They are very hard on themselves, believing that “no other kid in this school does the stupid things I do.” What they don’t know is that several of their school friends have done something that embarrassed them, but they haven’t talked about it. Now, instead of beating yourself up, it’s time for you to treat yourself kindly. Try just a few of these:
- Remind yourself that nobody else can be you. Your family and some of your best friends love you for a reason. You are the only “you” there is, so be yourself and embrace who you are. Accept your goof-ups; shrug and learn from them.
- Forgive yourself. You’re probably the person that’s hardest on yourself. Listen to your siblings and your parents. If they tell you to “forget it, move on,” they are onto something. Try to shove those bad feelings about yourself out and replace them with something that’s much happier: “Yeah, I wore something really goofy to school. I won’t do that again. But, nobody else in choir has nailed that solo yet!”
- Congratulate yourself when something goes right. You deserve it! Keep working hard and learning new things. That way, you’ll be able to congratulate yourself more often. And you’ll be able to feel good about yourself for a good reason.
- Take a look at yourself in the mirror. Really look. Ignore the bad-hair days and that zit developing on your forehead. If you feel like you’re too tall, stand straight. Your height will be good for something! Smile at yourself, because you’re beautiful (or handsome, if you’re a guy).
About Making, Keeping and Leaving Friends
Once you’ve made a few friends, your work doesn’t end. Yes, it is work. You need to turn your focus to your friends so you know what is happening with them. You’ve probably heard this: “to have a friend, you need to be a friend.” Which simply means you need to treat others just like you want to be treated.
Here’s a few other tips:
- Find someone who shares your interests and beliefs
- Make friends with someone you share a class with. You’ll spend more time together
- Be independent while making time to do things with your friends
- If your interests change while your friend’s stay the same, be ready to let the friendship end
- All of this means you need to be watching everything that happens in your friendships. All along, try to be honest with your friends.
Do you truly feel like you can trust your friends? Or do you feel discomfort around some of them? If you feel like your friends are trying to push you into doing something you know is wrong, you have the right to say no. When someone can influence you, the friendship is out of balance, with your friend having more power and “say-so” than you have.
If you find you need to stand up for yourself, be honest, but respectful. Say, “I’m sorry, but what you’re saying I should do doesn’t feel right to me. I’d rather do something else, like playing a game of hoops. Tell you what. Think about it, then give me a call. I’m always available. Just not for what you want to do.” This way, you state your feelings clearly and respectfully. You also leave the door open to spending time doing something else with your friend.
When You Choose a Friend Your Parents Don’t Like
Honestly, this has happened to almost all of us. You meet someone at school or the teen club that’s different. Their “differentness” appeals to you and the two of you click.
When you take your friend home to have a snack or do homework, you see your mom’s eyebrows go up—and you know this isn’t good. After your friend leaves, your mom sits down with you and explains just why she doesn’t think your friend is a good person for you to spend time with.
When you were younger, your identity was tied into your parents, because they protect, guide and love you. Even though they don’t like this part of parenthood, one of their goals should be to raise you so that when you become independent, you are ready psychologically, cognitively and emotionally. You began working on this when you entered your teen years. Your friends will be at the center of your identity—and this is completely normal! As this happens, your relationship with your parents will move to the side. It won’t be quite as important as it was when you were younger.
This process may confuse your parents and you. As it happens, don’t shut them out of your life, because they still have a lot of importance to you. They will continue teaching you new things and guiding you on your walk to adulthood. Sure, you may roll your eyes at some of the things they say and do, but do your best to keep a close, loving relationship with them. As you adjust to adolescence and adulthood, that adjustment will be stronger if you have a strong relationship with both parents. Coming back to that friend your parents don’t like, sit down with them and try to come to some kind of understanding. Let them know what you see in your friend and how you benefit from your relationship. Then, if your friend does do something your parents wouldn’t like, you’ll be better able to reassess whether that person is really someone you want to hang out with. Hopefully, your parents won’t give you the “I told you so” routine.
How to “Be” a Friend
It’s happened to so many kids your age. You do something that makes you want to die. You drop soda all over your outfit or you say something about the cute boy to the wrong person. A true friend will let you know that what you did is okay. You aren’t a social outcast.
You probably already know what it means to be a real friend. You “just know” when someone you meet is going to become a real friend, someone who sticks with you, even in the worst times.
Those friends stick by you when you realize you got your period—and you’re wearing your cutest white dress. Or they help you with a huge homework assignment that’s due tomorrow morning because you were out of school all week long with the flu.
Now that you know this, what can you do to be a friend to yourself and others?