October is anti-bullying month. We've got some great things coming up on that subject, a real life story to share, but I want to start out with some real thoughts on friendships, from recent meetings held with local teen girls.
After years of meeting with teen girls talking about life issues, loneliness is one common theme that has never changed, no matter the age or the different group of girls I'm talking to. Girls can tend to be lonely. As busy as we are, it's an interesting thought! A middle schooler this weekend said "That's why girls want to have a boyfriend". Another said that girls you'd never expect sometimes post things on Facebook or Twitter declaring loneliness. Loneliness may be partly due to the fact we are made with such a great capacity for relationship. Learning what to do with that need for relationship is helpful.
Girls often say with sadness how they rarely have time to get together with so many friends they really enjoy. We talked of the need for relationship and friendship, how crucial it is. Our lifestyles sometimes make us so busy, they definitely feel stress at young ages, but does the primary need for good relationships get squeezed out? Good friendships are part of what eleviates stress in our lives. Are we making time for people? It's something to consider. It seems a constant battle for all of us, adults too. I know I can relate!
It is helpful to let girls know that occasional loneliness is relatively normal and they aren't the only ones that feel that way. So often we do feel like "the only ones" who feel a certain way. Oh, I'm normal?! What a relief! Sometimes just knowing that helps. It may be a surprise to learn some girls feel this way at all. Not all do, but it may be helpful to bring it up sometime and see if the girls you know can relate.
When we do have that great fun time with friends, it's so important who we hang out with. Friends influence us one way or another. At our last two meetings, girls have had to think through what character traits are important to them in friendships.
A group of 8th graders individually write down the 5 most important character traits they wanted a close friend to have. Then as a group they had to unanimously agree on just 3 of those traits as the most important. This was a difficult task which led to very interesting discussion!
After a lively debate, we finally realized narrowing down to 3 would be impossible before moms arrived to pick up girls to go home. These girls had lots of thoughts and compelling arguments! So the final 5 they could agree on as tops were: honesty, trust, Christian, fun, and a friend who listens. Each had their own personal top 3, that weren't necessarily the same as others, which is totally fine. It wasn't a right or wrong answer, just an exercise to think through what traits a good friend should have.
Lastly, looking in the mirror is necessary (but definitely not quite as fun), as we ask ourselves, am I displaying those qualities that I seek from others? This question solicited a couple of groans and sheepish looks....but teaching girls to consider their own behavior will give them life long skills they'll need for good relationships.
Random thoughts girls have shared this month-
1. I want a friend who listens to me. Some girls want to talk about their problems all the time, but get annoyed when I want to talk about mine.
2. I want a friend who isn't a downer all the time. If someone is negative a lot, I feel it pulling me down with them.
3. I want a friend who really wants to be with me. I don't want to be their back up plan.
4. I have alot of people tell me their problems. I have to make sure I don't get burdened down trying to take care of everyone's problems.
5. "Oh no..." when asked to think about how they themselves are acting toward others...indicating the need to examine self is definitely needed! :) haha... who can't relate to that?!
Discussion starter: When girls you know, daughter or otherwise, are talking about friends, ask what it is they enjoy about that person. Just listen. This can help her think through what traits are important to her in relationships.
Sometimes the opposite approach works too. If she is having friendship problems, recognizing what that friend is doing that hurts her, helps her to see the positive quality that friend may be lacking.