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Topics In Brief

All Topics In Brief

Friendship

It includes the following sections:

Introduction

The ability to make and keep good friends is important throughout life, and much of that ability develops in adolescence. Friends provide a basic source of happiness in general, as well as a source of support in difficult times. However, close friendships do not happen accidentally. There are certain requirements for the development of meaningful, lasting friendships. (from the Peer Relationship Resource Book, ETR, 1996) This edition of ReCAPP will focus on how we as educators can show teens the value of healthy friendships.

Definitions

Friendship — as used here, refers to a close, meaningful relationship between an adolescent and another individual (other than a family member). A teen's friend may be a peer of the same age, or may be younger or older. Friends may also be different genders. A friendship is often platonic (or non-sexual). However, friendship is also the basis of a healthy romantic relationship.

Intergenerational Relationships — Adolescents can and should develop friendships with adults wherever possible and appropriate. Although the nature of these friendships may differ, adults can be good friends as well as mentors and healthy role models for youth. In addition, with the longevity that seniors now enjoy, this segment of our society is more available to form friendships with young people. Despite the age difference, seniors and adolescents can learn a great deal from each other and enjoy mutually beneficial relationships.

Self-Esteem — a measure of how much you value yourself.

Self-Identity — the way you describe yourself based on the roles you play and the traits you think you possess.

Peer Pressure — the influence of friends on behavior. Peer pressure can be positive and/or negative.

Internal Locus of Control — refers to the belief that a person has control over what happens to him/herself.

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An Overview of the Issues

Healthy adolescent development includes broadening social contacts. During adolescence, peer relationships help smooth the transition from childhood to adulthood. Teens begin to exercise independence from their families, and friends play a more important role in their lives and can influence their decisions.

The ability to develop healthy friendships depends on a teen's self-identity, self-esteem, and internal locus of control (people's feelings of control over what happens to them). Teens who have problems making and keeping friendships are more susceptible to peer pressure and more likely to engage in risky behaviors, like smoking or using drugs, than teens who find it easy to make and keep friends.

Some experts believe that teenage girls frequently enter into sexual relationships when what they are seeking is a close or intimate (not necessarily sexual) friendship. (from the Peer Relationship Resource Book, ETR, 1996) The ability to make and keep good friends helps teens to form healthy sexual and romantic relationships when they are ready.

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What Educators Can Do

There are many ways that adults can teach youth, both directly and indirectly, how to have and be good friends. Indirectly, educators and other adults can, and do, model friendship in many ways. Being especially aware of how we as adults are role models and model friendship skills can have an impact on young people all around us.

In a more direct way, teachers and other educators can also instruct youth in friendship skill development (see the Learning Activity on Friendship), which is related to teens' self-esteem, self-identity, and internal locus of control.

A few of the ways that we can help teens understand the value of friendship and the skills involved are suggested below.

  • Take time out of your day to talk to teens, especially young people who don't appear to have many friends. Just giving an adolescent a few minutes of your time and attention can make a big difference. Knowing that an adult cares enough to approach and engage them sends young people the message that they matter.

  • Promote self-esteem in youth. Self-esteem is required for forming both friendships and healthy romantic relationships. Activities which encourage youth to focus on their strengths, talents and other positive qualities help them with a healthy self-identity. Self-esteem is also developed by becoming competent in a skill (i.e. writing, playing a musical instrument, sports, etc.). One activity to get teens in touch with their strengths is by having them make a list of the qualities they feel proud of and/or which make them a good friend to others.

  • Use fun "ice breakers" (social activities to relax a group) which help young people become acquainted with each other. These can build a comfortable and safe environment for teens who might be shy or self-conscious. Non-threatening games or activities allow teens to mix without feeling the pressure of initiating contact with each other on their own. To find a good list of sample ice breakers and energizers, check out books and other resources including The Big Book of Team Building Games (by John Newstrom & Edward Scannell) and Work Play…Playing to Learn and Learning to Play (by Carmine M. Consalvo).

  • Establish groundrules to ensure feelings of safety and comfort in a class or group of teens. Rules including "no put-downs" and "the right to pass" on doing something they don't want to do can help teens feel in control in a situation.

  • Model friendship from an adult's experience and point of view. Without making personal disclosures, educators should feel comfortable in mentioning something about their friends and the value of friendship in their own lives.

  • Get several educators or other adults together to host a pizza party or ice cream social for a large group of students or other youth. Use the opportunity to model cooperation and intergenerational friendship.

  • Celebrate the idea of friendship in class through structured and creative activities. For example:

    • Have students express themselves through art by making collages using words and images which help them describe themselves and the role friendship plays in their lives.

    • Have students create "want ads" for a friend, describing qualities they would personally want in a friend (e.g. trustworthy, loyal, reliable, thoughtful, generous, supportive, funny, etc.) See ReCAPP's Learning Activity on Friendship for more information on this idea.

    • Encourage teens to keep a journal with their thoughts about themselves and their friendships, experiences, and feelings. Writing in a journal can help them reflect on their personal beliefs, needs, and ideas for making and keeping friends.

  • Encourage the practice of good communication skills essential for healthy friendships. Among other skills, good friends listen to each other, don't hurt each other's feelings or put each other down. Good friends support and compliment each other, show mutual respect, and can disagree without hurting each other. (See the Learning Activity on Friendship.) Educators can teach youth the following:

    • Active Listening Skills:
      Active listening skills require the listener's undivided attention and interest in the speaker. Active listening is a difficult skill to master. Have teens practice using eye contact, listening without interruption, and showing empathy (sharing the speaker's emotions, thoughts, or feelings).

    • Conflict Resolution Skills:
      These skills enable teens to resolve conflict without blaming each other. The ability to disagree, negotiate conflict, and maintain mutual respect is important in all healthy relationships, especially friendships. Using "I" statements to express feelings is one way to confront and resolve problems in a non-threatening manner. (See the Educator Skill on Classroom Management for more information about "I" statements.) Role play practice can also be an effective way to help teens develop conflict resolution skills.

 

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More Information/Resources

Organizations and web sites with additional information on friendship include:

  • Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.
    Floor 12
    810 Seventh Avenue
    New York, NY 10019
    1-800-230-PLAN
    www.teenwire.com/index.asp

  • The Network for Family Life Education
    Rutgers University
    100 Joyce Kilmer Avenue
    Piscataway, NJ 08854
    Phone: 732-445-7929
    www.sxetc.org

  • Advocates for Youth
    1025 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 200
    Washington, DC 20005
    (202) 347-5700
    www.advocatesforyouth.org

  • National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
    1776 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 200
    Washington, DC 20036
    (202)478-8500
    teenpregnancy.org

  • Kaiser Family Foundation
    2400 Sand Hill Road
    Menlo Park, CA 94025
    Phone: (650) 854-9400
    www.itsyoursexlife.com

Books and videos addressing the subject of friendship include:

  • Peer Relationships (Teacher/Student Resource) . . Comprehensive Health for the Middle Grades (1996)
    By Emogene Fox, EdD
    ETR Associates
    4 Carbonero Way
    Scotts Valley, CA 95066
    (800) 321-4407
    www.etr.org

  • Like It Is . . . A Teen Sex Guide
    By E. James Lieberman, MD and Karen Lieberman Troccoli, MPH
    McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers (1998)
    Box 611
    Jefferson, NC 28640

  • Sexual Interactions (Fourth Edition)
    By Albert Richard Allgeier and Elizabeth Rice Allgeier
    D. C. Heath and Company
    125 Spring Street
    Lexington, MA 02173
    (800) 334-3284

  • Your Children's Friendships: The Good Times…The Bad Times
    Narrated by Debbie Nigro, (host of New York based WKPQ's talk show "The Working Mom on the Run")
    Length: 35 minutes
    Cost: $89.95
    For more information, contact:
    Sunburst (video producer)
    (800) 431-1934
    www.sunburst.com

  • Helping Teens Stop Violence…A Practical Guide for Counselors, Educators, and Parents
    By Allan Creighton with Paul Kivel
    Hunter House Inc., Publishers
    P.O. Box 2914
    Alameda, CA 94501-0914

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