Inside: Help kids figure out what they value in a friend and what they look for in a friend with these Friend Wanted Posters.
Throughout my life, and throughout my kids’ lives, we have been on the search for friends.
And not just any kind of friends.
Real, good, true friends.
And to be honest, it hasn’t been easy for a few reasons.
One, we’ve moved a bunch of times. So very often, we were all the “new kid” at school and in the neighborhood.
Second, it’s hard to figure out how to be a good friend yourself.
And third, it can be hard to figure out which friends are the real deal and which ones are people to only be friendly with.
For the longest time, my friends were the people physically closest to me…my neighbors, the kids in my class, the kids in my scout troop.
Proximity determined most friendships for me as a child and young adult.
And as an adult, it took me a long time to break that habit. It honestly took a therapist to tell me: “You know you get to choose your friends, right? You get to decide who you spend time with. It doesn’t have to be the people closest to you. It needs to be the people you enjoy being with, the people who like you for who you are, the people who make you feel better after you’ve spent time with them.”
These are lessons I wish I had learned in childhood and now teach my kids.
One fun way to do that is to create a Friend Wanted Poster to narrow down and get specific about what you’re looking for in a friend.
What Makes a Good True Friend?
Over the years, I have had plenty of experience with “fair weather” friends or people who were not good, true, friends.
So it is imperative to determine what qualities you want in a friend and what qualities are your personal “red flags.”
And instead of learning this all in therapy years after I should have learned it, we can intentionally teach our kids how to be a good friend and what a good friend sounds and feels like.
Because friendship is essential to our overall mental health.
Friends become our confidants, our moral support, our biggest cheerleaders, and can oftentimes feel like family. They are the people we turn to in times of celebration and in times of hurt, pain, and grief.
But we rarely stop and evaluate the relationships we have:
Do we really like these people? Do I like myself when I spend time with them? Am I consciously choosing to be friends with them or are they a friend of convenience and I need to go find someone who is better suited for me/who I want to be?
It’s essential to pause and evaluate friendships to determine if they are emotionally healthy, mutual, and make you a better person.
A good true friend:
- Likes you for who you are and makes you feel good about yourself
- Cheers you on and wants you to win, too
- Includes you and makes sure there’s room for you to sit or join the game
- Does not have restrictions or limits on how or when you can be with them
- Asks what you want to do or play
- Does not treat you differently when other kids are around
- Hurts your feelings on accident and then apologizes
- Wants to be with you and spend time with you
- You feel comfortable being yourself around them
- Listens to you when you tell them to stop doing what they’re doing
- Stands up for you even when you’re not there to defend yourself
- You feel great after you’ve spent time with them
Use this Good, True Friend Checklist with kids so they can start to evaluate their friendships and determine if it’s a good fit for them.
More Social Emotional Learning Resources to Focus on Friends and Friendship:
Teaching kids about friends and friendship doesn’t have to be hard. There are tons of fun, hands on resources that will make it easier because shouting “Friend Wanted” doesn’t really work.
I am a Good Friend Emergent Reader (for beginner or pre-readers)
I am a Good Friend Early Reader (for more advanced readers)
Treasured Friends- what is a treasured friend and what is not? Who are those gems?
And we read friendship books like these:
Related: Best Friendship Books
We can also connect friendship and social emotional learning concepts with creative writing when we ue this free Friend Wanted Poster.
How to Use the Friend Wanted Poster:
1.Print the version you wish to use: black and white or color version with or without the cowboy or cowgirl.
2. Cut out the wanted poster or leave it on a full 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.
3. If you use the black and white version, give kids skin color crayons to color in the cowboy or cowgirl.
3. Brainstorm what we look for in a friend. Have conversations about what they like about their friends or what they don’t want in a friend (and then use the opposite attribute).
You can use this list of adjectives or add to it:
- kind and caring
- similar hobbies/interests
- cheer you on
- cheer you up
- include and invite you
- listen to you
- they like you for who you are
- easy-going and flexible
- good sport/good teammate
4. Encourage kids to write out what they’re looking for in a new friend. They can write a list or use complete sentences. They can include important things like “be kind” and “silly things” such as “likes kickball.”
5. To connect this to listening and speaking skills, they can share their wanted posters with the group.
6. Share their writing in a classroom book or post these on a bulletin board so kids can connect with each other.