Since September I’ve been doing Skype in the Classroom sessions about Real Friends vs the Other Kind with 3rd-10th graders. (Even did one in Croatia!) Today I beamed into an 8th grade class in Philadelphia. Here are some of those students’ questions along with my answers. I’m sharing them to let you know that you are not alone in dealing with any of this stuff.
Student: What would you do if you had a friend you couldn’t trust but you were trying to give them a chance?
It’s good to give someone a second chance. We all make mistakes, right? Sometimes we’re in a bad mood and we’re rude. Sometimes we’re trying to impress other people and we end up hurting a friend. Before you give someone another chance, though, you have to talk about what happened. You can say, “What you did made me feel like I can’t trust you. I want to give you another chance, but first tell me what the heck was going on when you did that?!” A real friend will stop and think. They’ll say something like this: “I’m really sorry. This is why I did it. I promise I’m not going to do that again.” Then you can say, “Cool” and you move forward in the friendship.
But if your friend says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” They’re not taking responsibility for what they did. Even though you may want to trust them again, you haven’t really cleared up the problem. They don’t seem to understand what they did and why it wasn’t OK. Chances are good, they will do it again. If you still want to give them another chance, proceed with caution.
Student: If you’re friends with someone and you know that they’re talking about you, what should you do?
You can’t pretend that you don’t know it, so you have to talk about it. But watch your attitude. If I’m angry and I go my friend and say: “Hey, I heard that you’re talking about me. What’s up with that?!” your friend will feel attacked and will defend him or herself. They may say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about” when they actually know exactly what you’re talking about. Or they may be innocent and ask, “Who told you that?! It’s not true!” Maybe the person who told you was lying because they wanted to mess up your friendship. Bottom line here, if you need to talk to a friend about something important, get the facts first and don’t come out fighting. If you know the truth, calm down and say, “I know you’ve been talking about me and it makes me feel like you’re not a real friend.” Then you close your mouth and you listen to what they have to say. Afterwards, decide what’s right for you to do in this friendship.
Student: Have you ever felt like if you didn’t have a friend you weren’t like… normal?
There were times when I didn’t have a real friend. (That’s the only kind worth having.) It’s OK not to have friends if you know that you are friends with yourself. Being cool with who you are lets you be cool with spending time on your own. That’s way better than hanging out with people you don’t trust or respect. Not having a friend can be lonely and sometimes you might wonder, “What’s wrong with me? How come I don’t have at least one person who I’m really close with?” There’s nothing “wrong” with you. It might just be that the people around you are not a good match for you and for the kind of friend you are looking for. It may be that you’ve got high standards for yourself and for the people you call your friends. That’s a good thing.
If you aren’t finding real friends at school, look outside of school. At an afterschool club. Or a youth group. Or at the park. Just talk to people. I used to go to the library a lot when I was in middle and high school. There were kids there from other schools and I got to be friends with some of them.
If you need new friends or more friends… first you need to know what a real friend is. Make a list of what makes a Real Friend. Use it as your “shopping list.” For example, respect is a really important trait in a friend. You may see someone and say to yourself, “Is this person respectful? I don’t know him or her yet, but do I like what I see in the way this person treats others? Would I want a friend who treats me that way?” Think about what you’re looking for and keep your standards high, for yourself and for other people.
I hope this helps, and tune in next time, for Part 2 of Friendship Issues from the 8th grade. Til then, be a good friend to yourself and others.