The importance of friends
Friends are a very important part of life - at any age. Friendships can affect our happiness, self confidence and achievements. They can also:
- help develop social skills
- teach us how to get along with other people
- help us learn different ways of understanding the world and the many different meanings we can make from life events
Friendships change as people get older and grow and develop.
As you move from childhood into your teens you will probably find yourself becoming more involved in your peer group, and friendships will become a really important part of your life. This is normal, as these friendships help develop independence and a sense of who you are as an individual - unique and separate to your family.
At this time in life, people learn to understand themselves better, and much of this understanding comes through relating to and identifying with others, in a much deeper way than during childhood.
When things go wrong
Healthy teenage friendships typically provide support, understanding and fun, and help to define individual beliefs and values.
When friendships don't go smoothly it can be a really stressful time. You might start to question yourself and whether or not you are ok compared to your peers. As well as this, not having friends can impact on self esteem or achievements.
At Kids Helpline, lots of young people talk to us about concerns involving friends. Examples of common concerns include:
- Changes in friendships or a friend's behaviour
- Moving away from old friends and having to meet new ones
- Growing apart from friends and developing different interests
- New people joining friendship groups and changing the dynamic
- Getting dumped by friends and not knowing why
Any of these situations can lead to needing to make new friends. Depending on the circumstances this can be an exciting or a stressful experience - or a bit of both!
Difficulties making friends
Often the thought of making new friends can create a feeling of self consciousness and uncertainty.
Although there are lots of different ways to make friends, sometimes people do or say things that can make it a bit harder. Some of these include:
- Being shy and avoiding eye contact
- People confusing your shyness with being unfriendly
- Talking about yourself too much and not being interested when others talk
- Being negative about things
- Making fun of people or putting people down
- Telling yourself that there is nothing about you anybody would like
If you are having friendship concerns or if you are needing to meet new friends it can be helpful to find some other support or help to talk things through. You might want to consider talking to a person that you know and trust, such as a parent, teacher or a Kids Helpline counsellor!
Below we have listed some ideas that might be useful to think about when it comes to making new friends:
- How you have made friends in the past. How does it usually happen and what things do people do to help make this happen? For example: Someone might have come up to you and started a conversation and then they became your friend
- You might have asked someone a question or commented on something such as how much you liked their shoes. This might have sparked a conversation and lead to friendship
- You might have met someone at a group activity and really clicked with them
- Someone might have smiled at you and this made you feel at ease to go up and talk to them
- The qualities in people that make you like them and want to be around them. Maybe they were interested in you or valued your ideas, or maybe they were funny and made you laugh
- The qualities in you that might make people want to be around you. Someone may have told you that they really trust you because you listen and care. Or perhaps they love the fact that you always do what you say you will do and they can depend on you
- The kind of thoughts you have in your head about yourself that might help you to be open to new people. Have you noticed that if you feel OK with yourself you are more likely to meet people than if you are really down on yourself? It's normal to be feeling nervous but make sure you are kind to yourself!
Here are some other ideas that might help you make friends:
- Being friendly
- Smiling and acknowledging people
- Starting conversations
- Being interested in others
- Being a good listener when other's talk
- Giving other's compliments (but you have to mean it)
- Looking confident and being OK with yourself
- Having a sense of humour and being able to have fun
- Having helpful self talk that is encouraging and patient
Reviewed: December 2014