Older Sister Advice: Friendships
By: Anika In’T Hout
Let’s face it, friendships are an important part of growing up. Friends are great to have around: you can do fun things together, you can chat about stuff you both like, they can help you feel like you belong, and they can help you navigate the awkwardness of middle school and high school. But sometimes, friendships aren’t always easy. So here are a few tips for dealing with all kinds of situations you might experience when it comes to friends.
Situation #1: If you’re having trouble making new friends...
It is totally okay. Whether you’re starting at a new school or are just not connecting with your classmates, making new friends can be hard sometimes. This happens to more people than you would think.
What do we suggest? If you’re not connecting with anyone, try branching out and joining something you enjoy. From a sports team or school play at school to a club or organization outside of school, getting involved in something you actually love is a great way to meet people who have the same interests as you.
Another thing you can try when trying to make friends is sharing negative experiences. Even if it seems odd, it has been shown that opening up about negative personal experiences with people makes it easier to bond and become friends faster. So skip the small talk and happy talks, and get closer with people by sharing tough things going on in your lives.
A speedy “hack” to making friends is to talk about “negative” personal experiences with someone you want to be friends with. It can be super small but think back to when you shared something personal with someone. If they reacted empathetically, did it make you feel closer to them? If you always act neutral or happy around friends, it’s harder to break down barriers.
Situation #2: If you and your friend are drifting apart...
This can happen. Even if you have been friends since kindergarten and have matching BFF necklaces, the truth is, sometimes friends can start to drift apart. This can especially happen if you go to different schools, one of you starts dating, or one of you starts hanging out with new friends.
What do we suggest? Plan a friend date! If there’s something you both used to like doing together, send your friend a text, ask them to hang out like old times and see if that makes a difference. You can also try straight-up asking them what is going on between the two of you and seeing if that helps get you two back on track. It’s sad and confusing, but sometimes you and your friend may be going in different directions, and that’s okay.
Situation #3: If you are stuck in a group of three...
Ooof, it’s tough. Whether it’s not having enough room on narrow sidewalks, not getting inside jokes or not being included when you’re forced to partner up in class, being the third wheel is the absolute worst. People often assume being the third wheel is among you, your friend and the person she’s dating, but the truth is, the third wheel can happen with three friends as well. Either way, it’s terrible.
What do we suggest? Communication is key. Even if it’s hard, saying something like, “Hey, I’ve been feeling a little left out lately,” to your friend can make things better. You can also plan to hang out with your friend 1-on-1 or even plan fun group activities with a larger group of people, so you don’t have to deal with that third-wheel awkwardness. If none of those things are working and you’re still having a hard time, it might be wise to join an extracurricular activity where you can spend time on something you love and even make some new friends.
Situation #4: If you have a friend who is being mean to you...
It sucks. If your friend is often putting you down, spilling your secrets, comparing you to other people, yelling at you, trying to change you, or reaching out to you only if she needs something but never returning the favour, there’s a good chance that she may be a toxic friend. It’s one thing if your friend is having a bad day and sincerely apologize after the fact, but if it keeps happening, then it’s probably safe to say that you’re in a toxic friendship.
What do we suggest? First, take some time away from your friend. This helps you sort through your feelings and see things a little clearer. From there, have a chat with your friend and set some boundaries. Let your friend know that you won’t stand for toxic behaviour like lying, yelling, gossiping or criticizing you. If nothing changes, it might be time to cut this friend out of your life, whether you go cold turkey or slowly but surely removing them from your life.
Situation #5: If you have a friend pressuring you into things you don’t want to do...
It’s not okay. While friends are great for having fun and helping you feel like you belong, some friends can push you to do things you don’t want to do to fit in. It’s called peer pressure, and it can include cutting class, trying drugs or alcohol, excluding or bullying someone, stealing, or cheating on a test. If your friend is trying to convince you to do something, you may feel torn between not doing it but feeling like an outcast or doing it but having to deal with the very real consequences.
What do we suggest? Pay attention to how you feel - if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Rather than feeling trapped in the moment, plan ahead and think about what you will say or do in different situations. You can come up with some excuses (i.e. you can’t try that drug because you have a medical condition, etc.) or come up with a plan where if you send your mom a text, she’ll come and pick you up. If you’re feeling comfortable, you can have a chat with your friend and ask them to stop pressuring you.
Final thoughts on friendships
Friends are great for things like emotional support and a sense of belonging, but friendships in school aren’t always the easiest thing. With these tips, though, you will be ready for any friendship situation that comes your way.
Friendships are important, but relationships are too. Check out our Older Sister Advice blog post on relationships too!
About the Author
Meet Anika, our content creator and copywriter! In her final year at Western, she’s studying media and creative writing. Even though it’s been a while since she had to deal with the awkwardness of buying her first bra, she is excited to join the Apricotton team and make bra shopping a little bit easier for tween and teen girls. You can connect with her here.