The Foundations of Friendship Posted on Monday 13 September 2021 The Foundations of Friendship The Foundations of Friendship The Foundations of Friendship - Dr Deborah Trengove, Director of Pastoral Care The inclusion of Friendship into this year’s College theme acknowledges the central place that friends have in the lives of young people. Friendships help children and teenagers experience a sense of belonging – such a critical contributor to wellbeing. Friendships are also a platform for developing social and emotional skills, self-esteem and the move towards an independent identity in adulthood. Spending time with friends is hopefully also great fun! Friendships are dynamic and will change across our lives as we grow and explore. We meet new people through common interests and can lose contact with others from whom we drift apart. For younger children, it can be challenging to cooperate, share and put out ‘friendship fires’, while for young adolescents, working out where (and how) to fit in, sometimes seems like a minefield. Parents play a vital role in building cooperation and communication skills, the bedrock of friendships. This happens through playing games at home, having problem-solving chats and teaching children how to manage their emotions. Learning to show interest in others, deal with frustrations and talk things through will help every child make and keep friends. It is important to remember that friendships are not a ‘one size fits all’. Some children seek out one or two close friends, while others are happier with larger groups. Remember that how many parties a child is invited to is not the most important thing: it is the confidence that comes from having some genuine connections that counts. Friendships do not always go smoothly – feeling hurt by others, struggling to find a buddy or a tribe are common experiences for young people – part of their journey. But while it is normal to experience some ups and downs in friendships when growing up, that does not mean it is easy. The reassurance that comes from knowing there is at least one friend who you can rely on, cannot be overstated. Parents can support their child in navigating these bumps in many ways, often acting as a coach behind the scenes and modelling social skills. Depending on the age and circumstances, teachers can also work with parents to create new opportunities for children to connect, provide feedback and observations and the encouragement to make new friends through getting involved in some of the many activities offered at the College. Here are some of the key foundations for healthy friendships: Top Tips for Friends Trust Trust is the number one ingredient for any relationship. After trust comes forgiveness, but without trust, there is no safety or sense that we can depend on others. Trust is expressed through loyalty, keeping promises and being reliable. It involves honesty and consistency in inclusion. Good Times Having fun together is what friends are all about. There are many ways in which young people build connections, often through common interests: finding others who enjoy similar activities helps children bond naturally and perhaps find kindred souls. For young children, this often means shared games or pastimes; later on, it might be through music, theatre, sport, social action, chess or debating. These shared interests are important for developing a sense of identity and self-esteem. Listening Most of us have a deep desire to be heard and for many young people, they turn first to each other for advice or to share their worries. Being an active listener who is attuned to their friends’ concerns can make a big difference – giving time to listen and being sensitive to the feelings underneath what is being shared helps young people know they matter. Sometimes it is about saying less but hearing more. Kindness This is a great quality – for friends and everyone. Thoughtful acts of kindness show that friends care – checking in, cheering up, remembering someone’s birthday. These show young people that their friends care and that they are not alone. Non-judgmental Compassion Feeling accepted and not criticised is essential in a true friendship. Being able to be yourself and not feeling you will be judged, builds security in a friendship and confidence in yourself. Children and adolescents come from a range of backgrounds with diverse experiences that not everyone can relate to. If young people can learn to be open and inclusive of others, they are likely to make friends in all sorts of places, reaping lifelong rewards and connections. Supporting Others Young people play a key role when their friends are struggling with personal issues or difficult circumstances. I am often asked by students about what can they do to support their friends. My advice is that the role of a friend is to be available, listen and to encourage their friends’ self-care. To share some good times, to hang in there with them, but not to feel responsible for finding answers or solutions. It might be important to help a friend seek out support from those with more expertise or responsibility – and know that this is a wonderful gift. At the College we encourage children of all ages to be open and welcoming by extending the hand of friendship to others, whether in year 2 or 12. It can be particularly daunting coming into a school where students already know each other, or when arriving from another country or a minority cultural or ethnic background. We ask all families to encourage their children to be inclusive of those who are seeking to belong. Through the bonds formed in friendships, young people share many experiences, enriching their own lives in immeasurable ways.