For some of you, you have had the same core group of friends ever since you started school. Your group is so tight-knit that hardly anyone new joins and hardly anyone leaves.
There are also some of you who have that one best friend. You have been best friends as long as you can remember. You’ve done everything together and even your families are close friends. You hardly need anyone else.
Then, there are the rest of us. If you are like I was as an adolescent you have a new “best friend” every few months. You sort of bounce from group to group. For a few weeks or even a few months you hang out with one person. When your activities change, e.g it’s a new sports season, you become really close with someone else. One of the primary factors in determining how close you are with someone is proximity. If you are on the same team, or in the same classes, you become really close. Once your classes change or your season ends, it’s onto someone else.
If you are a little tired of feeling like you’re always starting over at getting close with friends, here are 5 tips I wish I’d known as a teenager. I think if I had followed these, I would have made lifelong friendships instead of friendships that lasted a few months.
1. Stay in the same extra-cirricular activity. If you play on a sports team, stick with it. Stay with the same team. A lot of people switch their allegiance based on getting onto the best team possible. However, the majority of you won’t be playing sports in college, and definitely won’t be playing professionally (If you’re the exception to this, then don’t follow this tip). The point of youth sports is to make really good friends, learn some work-ethic, get exercise and have fun. If you stay with the same group of girls or guys season after season you’re giving yourself the chance to get close with your teammates. The same goes for a scouting troop, school club, dance studio, etc.
2. Try and convince your parents to let you bring a friend on a family vacation. These are the kinds of things that bring you really close to someone. It’s concentrated, one on one time, having a lot of fun with your friend. You build memories that create solid friendship.
3. Work on boundary setting. Some of you allow yourselves to get in with a group or a certain friend who actually doesn’t treat you very well. You don’t really think you will be accepted by anyone else so you put up with tons of garbage. Your “friend” talks behind your back, or makes fun of you in front of others, or is embarrassed to bring you around certain people, or uses you for rides. This is the kind of person that is really nice to you one on one, but kind of sucks when they are around other teens. In these cases, you should definitely consider where you need to draw the line. It’s a little easier to do if you can trust that you can make other friends besides the one who treats you poorly.
4. Talk with your parents about what it means to be a loyal friend. You can’t change anyone else, but you can work on you. Are you doing all the things a loyal friend does? You’re not dating your friend’s ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, are you? That’s a big no-no in the friendship code. Do you stand up for your friends if someone says something rude about them? Do you make plans with a friend and then break them if something better comes along? Pay attention to your behaviors and make sure you’re doing the right thing to be a loyal and true friend.
5. Lastly, if you want to be close with people, do the little things that matter. Make sure you text your friends on their birthdays. Congratulate them when something good happens for them. Just pay attention to the details because they really matter to people.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT