it’s a ship that can carry you through anything…
Good friends can really make the difference, no matter what our age. A friend is someone who will listen, laugh and cry with you. A friend will stick by you. A friend won’t gossip about you behind your back. A friend will help you do the right thing, and won’t try to get you into stuff that’s harmful.
It’s true that friendships come and go though. Sometimes primary school friends drop away as we enter secondary school. Sometimes our interests change and we end up going separate ways. When you reach adulthood you might know and like lots of people but you’ll probably only think of a handful of them as ‘real friends’.
Sometimes we have a falling out with a best friend and that can be really hard. Feeling betrayed by a friend is very painful and can take a long time to get over. Sometimes misunderstandings get out of hand. If that has happened to you, don’t make the mistake of shutting yourself off from making new friends.
The peer group
During adolescence our friends form an important group, sometimes called the ‘peer group’. We turn to our peer group to help us move a bit further away from our parents as we learn to be more independent.
The peer group can be a great source of support, strength and fun as we work out more about ourselves – what we think about things, what’s right and wrong, what’s important in life, where we are headed.
Sometimes the peer group can make demands we are uncomfortable with – like conforming to certain ways of dressing, behaving and talking. It’s important to still think things through and make your own decisions. In the long run you have to live with yourself!
Girls mostly like to hang out with the girls and guys mostly like to hang out with the guys. Our same-sex friends share the same ‘language’ as us. With them we feel free to talk and just be ourselves without too much pressure to impress.
It’s normal to feel strongly attached to particular same-sex friends. That’s not a sign of being gay. It’s just a natural part of adolescent development. Girls probably find it easier to demonstrate this – they don’t mind sharing hugs. Boys are more likely to give a good mate a friendly punch or arm wrestle but it means the same thing – ‘you’re important to me’.
Be a friend to make a friend.
You have to be prepared to be a friend in order to make and keep friends.
Be a friend by listening, sharing, being fair and honest, not being too sensitive, giving praise when it’s due, being loyal, not gossiping behind others’ backs.
Sometimes our friends demand too much of us.
They may expect us to always do it their way, to always be available when they want something. You don’t have to be a doormat! Stand up for yourself when it’s necessary. Good friends should respect each other.
Sometimes our friends are too needy.
This is a hard one. You have a friend who is constantly ringing or texting because they are unhappy. Every day they dump a load on you about their parents or their boyfriend or their boss. They talk about how bad everything is for them, how they have started cutting themselves, how they drink too much – whatever. YOU end up worried, miserable and bogged down in their problems.
You might feel that as a friend you should be there for them, but the fact is you can’t really help in this sort of situation. They need to talk to someone like a parent or school counsellor about these things. Make it clear that you care about them but be firm and shut down those conversations before they get out of hand. Offer to help them go see a counsellor or chaplain at school. Talk to someone yourself – a parent or counsellor at school – about how it is affecting you.
How far does friendship go?
Loyalty to a friend doesn’t include doing something wrong for them or keeping a dangerous secret for them. It does mean always having their best interests at heart.