For almost 13 years tweens and teens have been asking me questions. Usually they’re having problems with friends, former friends, mean kids… You get the picture. Their sadness and confusion gets to me. Sometimes I tear up at the keyboard. Sometimes I yell in frustration. They don’t understand why a friend would treat them this way. I don’t get it either. But I try my best to help by telling them what they can do to improve the situation.
That’s a tall order because well, an email is just an email. it isn’t a hug. It’s not someone who knows you standing close by, listening and nodding in sympathy. Giving kids the real help they need to deal effectively with friendship challenges involves real teaching time. That’s why whenever a school invites me to do a student presentation I’m there in a flash. I love teaching kids about self-esteem, the brain and the human stress response, decision-making, conflict resolution, peer approval addiction, and understanding the difference between real friends vs. the other kind.
Last week I did my thing for a couple of hundred kids in grades 2-8. They had an opportunity to submit an anonymous question for me to answer during the presentation. Unfortunately we ran out of time so I brought home all of their hand-written questions. There were 50 of them. I promised I’d post my answers.
Here’s what the kids wanted to know. I put their questions in categories since they seemed to naturally fall that way. If you’ve got a child who has had friendship challenges in the past, or is currently experiencing them, invite your kid, tween or teen over to the computer and talk about this Q & A. You may learn something about your child’s experience at school that you didn’t know. Your child may discover that he or she really can count on you for encouragement, support and advocacy. Whatever you can offer in that arena is worth much more than what I can give.
Bullying, teasing and other rude behavior
- Some people are bullying me and I can’t get away.
- What do I do if someone was already bullying me and stopped and then it happened again?
- How do I get someone to stop bullying me when she’s been bullying me for 5 years?
- A certain “friend” makes fun of me in math class. What do I do??
- What if I tried all the techniques and they don’t work?
- What if all the things don’t work? Should you sit by yourself if you don’t have any other friends?
- What if you use an “I message” and the bully says “Whatever”?
- What do you do when someone says “I don’t care.”
- The girls I have been hanging around are being really mean to me. It has gotten to me. I don’t even want to go to school anymore. I’m tired of her friendship but I feel trapped. Help!
A: Whether it’s light teasing, heavy duty bullying or something in between… if someone is treating you disrespectfully and won’t stop when you tell them, then you need some help from an adult. If you haven’t already told a teacher and/or your parents about this ongoing situation, you need to do that. You have the right to go to school without worrying about people giving you a hard time. The adults at school and at home care about you. Let them know what’s going on so they can help send a clear message to the bullies that this is going to stop or else there will be strong consequences.
Real Friend or The Other Kind?
- My friend doesn’t play with me at all and is sort of not so nice. What do I do?
- How do I deal with a situation where I tell a friend that I was there first to sit next to someone but they don’t move their lunch but move mine instead?
- What if your friend got mad at you and you did not do anything to them?
- What do you do if your friend stops speaking to you? Why?
- If your friend is always with someone else what should you do?
- If a friend is kind of mean sometimes but you are scared to tell them because you want to be cool, what do you do?
- My best friend is rarely, but sometimes, kind of mean. But I don’t want to move on from her because when she is nice, she’s awesome. What should I do?
- What if I can’t decide if I like a person or not. Also how do I tell a friend they’re being mean to me?
- What if you have a friend who’s nice to you but then they are mean to you?
- What if somebody tries to hurt you and your feelings. I had that happen to me by somebody in first grade.
- What if one of your friends is being mean to you sometimes?
A: The most important thing to learn about friendship is that it’s a two-way street. To have a real friendship (the only kind worth having) both people need to treat each other with respect. If a friend is sometimes nice and sometimes not, then you need to respect yourself enough to stand up and speak up. Isn’t always easy to tell a friend the truth. But if you stay silent, you are letting your friend believe that you’re OK with whatever they’re doing. Does that guarantee that your friend will be nice to you 100% of the time? No. In fact, if you tell your friend that you aren’t willing to be disrespected, your friend may get angry. He or she may accuse you of trying to wreck the friendship! That may not happen if you tell the truth, but it might. I’m letting you know that there are risks for telling a friend something he or she may not want to hear. But there are also risks for allowing a friend to be mean to you. Remember, you have to be your own best friend. Don’t give people permission to be mean to you.
My friend has changed and/or my feelings about my friend have changed
- I have a friend and she is now in the “popular” group. So everybody crowds around her and I don’t know if I can still be her friend. Help me!
- Once at school I had a best friend that I played with every recess and I had to work in class a few extra minutes and then I went outside and my friend was playing with someone else! My friend did not even recognize me. How should I get my friend to play with me again?
- I have a classmate that used to be my friend and now she plays with a bully. She gets in fights with some people and gossips about them about something they didn’t do. She still wants to be my friend.
- A certain “friend” keeps making bad decisions and getting me in trouble. What should I do?
- I have 4 “friends” who aren’t that nice to me. One of them is nice to me when we are alone, but tries to act cool by being mean to me. I think they talk about me behind my back. What do I do?
- There is only one of my peers that asks me how I’m doing. Should I stick with my other peers or not?
- All my friends get over competitive about soccer. Why can’t they just be quiet and have fun?
- Does a friend lie and then joke about it?
- If your best friend suddenly looks like she has picked someone else for her best friend, what should you do?
- What if your friend promised to play with you and is playing with someone else? And Why?
- One of my friends made a promise but it didn’t happen and that made me sad.
- One of my friends gets mad really easily and I don’t know what to do.
- How do I know if someone I thought was my friend is still my friend?
- Should good friends sit together and what should you do when friends whisper and I’m scared?
- What do I do when one of my good friends says I’m a cheater in soccer when she really is and her posse backs her up!? When they really don’t believe her! They just don’t have any friends. They only have her!
- What do you do if a friend declares he is not your friend?
A: People change. And sometimes people who were once close friends grow in different directions. It’s normal. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing to “outgrow” a friend. It can be hurtful, though, if one person moves on and the other person feels left behind or left out. If you have a friend who is changing in ways that make you wonder if you two are still friends, it can help to talk about it with him or her. Find out whether you and your friend still have all the elements of a healthy friendship. That would be 2-way respect, trust, honesty, open-communication, and shared values. After talking, you may decide to take a break from the friendship. That is always your right. It’s your friend’s right to take a break too. If you can’t talk to your friend about what’s going on, it can help to write down all the PROS and CONS for staying in this friends as well as the PROS and CONS for taking a break. It can also help to talk things over with your parents.
Someone is getting between me and my friend!
- What do you do when you have a friend that has a friend that you don’t like?
- Someone is trying to not let me be with my bf.
- A friend of mine can be mean to my other friend. I want to be friends with both people. What do I do?
- I have a lot of friends and can’t play with them all at once. What should I do?
A: Friends are not objects. They don’t belong to you. They make their own choices. Sometimes a friend you used to be very tight with starts to get close to someone else. If the three of you can form a new friendship clique, great! But if for whatever reason you don’t get along with the new person or don’t want to hang out with them, then you may have to figure out a way to “share” time with your friend. Your friend has the right to have other friends besides you. You have that right too. I understand that isn’t always easy. Especially if you don’t have any other close friends and/or you feel kinda jealous of the new person. But sometimes a change in a friendship offers an opportunity for both friends to branch out, meet new people and get involved in new activities.
I need new friends!
- I am sort of in between friends. How do I know when I may be making a new friend?
- What about if no one wants to be your friend?
- How do I tell if someone is my friend?
A: At some point or another everyone needs some new friends. Sometimes your attitude about that situation can make all the difference. For example, you might think of it as a problem “Oh, man! I’ve got no friends. I need some new ones! But I don’t know how to find ’em. This is a really bad situation.” OR… you might think of it as a challenge. “OK, I really don’t have any close friends right now. I want some. I’ve made friends before so I know how it’s done. I’m up for the challenge.” A positive attitude always makes you the kind of person that other people want to be around. The first step to making new friends is to know what kind of person you’re looking for. To figure that out it can help to make an actual list. You can get started by filling in the blank in this sentence… “A good friend for me is someone who ______________.” (Likes sports, has a good sense of humor, is smart, is honest, etc.) Keep filling in the blank until you run out of ideas. Then after you have your list, start looking around for people at school who might fit your description. When you find someone who has friend potential, be friendly and see what happens!
- Why are people mean to each other?
A: This is a deep philosophical question. My short answer is that people who are hurting inside often take things out on others. They don’t understand that being mean is not going to make them feel better. Just the opposite. Being mean usually makes a person feel less good about herself. It’s also no way to live your life. Now let me throw the question back at you… why do you think people are mean to each other? Please post your comments at the end of this blog.
- What is the definition of gossiping… specifically?
- There is a terrible rumor going around, and I know it’s not true. What do I do???
A: Gossip is using information (true, partially true or totally false) to bring someone down. It is a form of violence. Usually people who gossip are trying to look cool and/or to get back at someone else. Gossip adds to the social “garbage” in any school. My best advice about gossip… “Don’t ever add to the garbage!” If you are the target of a rumor, talk to the adults at school and/or at home. Being gossiped about is a form of bullying and needs to be dealt with strongly.
- A friend of mine is in a relationship with another person. They’ve been together for the past 3 months. I really like that person. What should I do?
A: You don’t need me to tell you that the person you like is currently not available. They aren’t looking for a bf/gf… they already have one. It sounds like you have a choice. Either you continue to spend time with your friend and this other person and deal with whatever feelings that might come up when you see them together… Or, you create some distance so this relationship isn’t always in your face. You can do that by spending more time with your “single” friends.
- Why are friends either friends or allies or enemies?
A: I’m not sure I understand exactly what you’re asking here. The three categories are what they are. Are you wondering why all friendships aren’t the same? Or are you wondering how friends get categorized in the first place? If you explain your question more clearly in an email, I’ll try to answer.
- How many years have you been doing this job?
A: Since 1997.
- What if I don’t have much time to eat my lunch?
A: I don’t have enough information to answer your question. I’m wondering what is taking up your lunch time? Are you getting to lunch late for some reason? Are you using lunch to do homework for a class that meets after lunch? Maybe you could email me some more details so I can better answer the question.
- Will we be making pizza again?
A: I hope so!