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Friendship has been described as being the bacon bits in the salad bowl of life. However, today, we bestow the title of friend so freely it is like having a little lettuce with our bacon bit salad.
Summertime is the perfect time to help your tween evaluate all the friendships they have in their lives. I believe the overabundance of friends is the main reason something meant to be one of life’s sweetest pleasures – causes some of life’s deepest heartaches.
We have too many friends.
Today, the broad, generic term friend is used to describe and define many different levels of relationships.
Facebook has taken the term “Friend” to a new watered-down level. I am pretty sure I don’t have to tell you “Friend” is actually a techy term used for “Contacts” by FB. They have masterfully marketed “Friends” as an appealing substitute for the rather cold sounding “Contacts”. Who doesn’t want to have thousands of “Friends”?
I have no desire to run down Facebook, I’m just saying, this is the reality of where our children are with the concept of who a is a friend. In Switzerland, calling a person a friend is held in such high esteem it is bestowed very carefully upon only a very few acquaintances. So, the word friend in Switzerland and a Facebook friend are light years apart. Our world encourages kids to have friends in high quantity, not high quality.
What’s wrong with having a lot of friends? More is better, right? A kid can never have too many friends!
In the area of friends…not so much. Let’s face it, we keep up with our friend’s lives. We care deeply about them. We invest in their lives. When they hurt, we hurt. They laugh, we are happy! When they cry, we weep with them. But what happens when our friends don’t care for us as we expect? Ouch. We get hurt feelings. Expectations will get you every time. William Shakespeare summed it up when he said: “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”
So how do we help our kids navigate through the plethora of friend-like relationships and understand who is a friend-to-the-end and who is just an acquaintance? How do we open up the topic of the different degrees of friendships and the hopes (less binding than an expectation) we have for the different levels?
Here is a simple exercise for you to go through yourself and then with your tween.
A wise counselor once explained friendship like this as he drew a diagram. He said, “In your life, you will have relationships that can be placed into consecutive circles that surround you. These circles are layers of intimacy and access to your life.
The circle nearest you has the most intimate access to your heart.
The next layer contains friends and the outermost layer contains acquaintances.” He had me make a list of all the relationships in my life and place them in a hand drawn diagram of me in the center as a dot and three consecutively larger circles coming out from me. He then encouraged me to place each person’s names into the appropriate circle.
This little exercise was eye-opening for me because it gave my mushy, fuzzy thoughts about my friends’ form and structure! Not all friendships are created equal and we hope for different levels of commitments from each. Once the structure of my friendships with women was illustrated, I was better able to discern the function and when you know the function of a relationship…you are less likely to hurt or be hurt.
Now, you try it on yourself before you try it with your tween!
1. Grab a piece of paper and draw the diagram I described by making a lovely dot in the center of a sheet of paper. Follow this by drawing three consecutively larger rings around the dot.
2. On another piece of paper make a list of your friends. List 8-10 people in your life who you spend the most time with. Which friends help you to be a better person? Which bring out the worst in me?
3. Now, fill in the diagram with where the names belong according to how close you feel to them and how much access they have to your life.
• In the next circle place the names of your chums, your buddy’s. People you hang out with.
• The outer ring is for those you are acquainted with but your lives really don’t intertwine.
• Take a long hard look at the names and where they have been placed. Does it surprise you?
4. Think about/discuss the different expectations- there is that word again- for each of the friend rings. You wouldn’t expect the outer ring to act like the inner ring, would you? Why? Which relationships are you putting most of your time, effort or investment? What changes could you make today to help you have healthier friendships?
5. After you have done this for yourself, take some time to do this little exercise with your tween.
Admittedly, friendships are complex and at times can be so tricky to define as they shift from one circle to another. Yet, by helping your tween understand the friendship structure and function you can teach them what true friendship means.
This was Day 29 of The 30 Days of the Tween Parenting Encouragement Blog Party!
What a fantastic post today! Shelly Noonan from B’twixt & B’tween and Pumpkin Seed Press provides us with wisdom in the importance of true friendships! I very much appreciate these practical steps to help keep our friendships in check as well as for our tweens. It can be really hard today to define what true friendship should look like! I am ready to work on this exercise, how about you?
Leave a comment below and let us know how it went. Did it turn out like you thought?
I personally have been beyond blessed by Shelley Noonan and the information, resources, and loads of wisdom she shares in parenting, mentoring and homeschooling. Now it’s your turn to check it out for yourself!
Shelley Noonan is a homeschool veteran, popular conference speaker and co-author of four books including The Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood which I highly recommend. Shelley founded and operates Pumpkin Seed Press as well as B’twixt & B’tween. Shelley is a dreamer | creator | idea lover | communicator | friend | coach | passionate.