Inside: Help kids figure out who their great, true, real friends are with this friendship checklist they can use to decide for themselves.
When I was in middle school, I had a few friends my mom didn’t like.
She told me she would let me decide if I was going to continue my friendship with them, but they were no longer welcome in her house because of the choices she saw them make and the way they talked to me.
Over time, I was able to evaluate their behavior for myself and slowly started pulling away from them to spend time with friends who were welcome in my home and didn’t treat me poorly.
But figuring out who to be friends with and who to stay clear of is one of the hardest parts of growing up.
And figuring out how to be a good friend in return is an equally daunting task.
It can be darn near impossible to pull away or walk away from friends who aren’t real friends.
Why it’s Important to Help Kids Understand Who Their Real Friends Are
We are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with.
If we surround ourselves with daredevils and adventurous people, we’ll tend to do more adventurous things.
If we surround ourselves with kind and generous people, we’ll tend to be more kind and generous.
And if we surround ourselves with bullies and mean people, we will tend to be bullies and do mean things.
We want our kids to be kind and generous and thoughtful. And we want them to have good, solid friends who lift them up and treat them well and inspire them to be their best selves.
So we have to help our kids decide who are good friends and who aren’t.
And this is a darn near impossible task for our kids to figure out. In fact, it’s hard for most adults to figure out.
But we can give them a “cheat sheet” with this Friendship Checklist to help them figure out if their friend is a true, real, and good friend or a “fake” not-so-great friend.
What Makes a Good, Real, True Friend:
Everyone has a different definition of what makes a good friend.
And it’s important to remember there are different kinds of friends…not everyone will be your best friend. Not every friend will be a confidant. Not every friend will be a lifelong friend. And that’s okay.
And it’s also crucial to understand that even if we’re raising our kids to be kind, and we want them to be friendly to everyone, they don’t have to be friends with everyone.
Forcing kids to be friends sets them up to be in dangerous situations, emotionally damaging situations and harmful peer pressure moments.
So we have to help kids decide who is a good, real, true friend.
They have to know who they can tell personal, private information to. They have to know who will stand up for them if they need it. And they have to know who will make them feel good about themselves.
So a Good, Real, True Friend:
- Wants to spend time with you
- Doesn’t treat you differently when you’re not there to defend yourself
- Likes you for who you are
- Doesn’t ask you to do things you don’t want to do
- Includes you and wants you to join in
- Listens to you and tries to understand
But when our kids are in a tricky social moment, it can be hard to remember this.
How to Help our Kids Find Real Friends
So many of our kids are drawn to mean kids, unkind kids or kids who don’t treat them well and keep going back for more.
And for some of our kids who can’t tell the difference between a good friend and a bad friend yet, they often go back and spend more time with kids who put them down or make them feel badly about themselves.
We can talk about what makes a good friend with these discussion starters and with this Skittles Game.
We can beg them to stay away from certain kids, the wrong crowd, the mean kids.
But it won’t be until our kids can learn to decide for themselves will they truly “get it.” Kids have to be able to discern who they should and shouldn’t spend their time with.
This is essential as our kids get older and spend more time with friends and less time with us. With peer pressure and emotional bullying prevalent, we have to ensure our kids know who to spend time with.
The only effective way to help our kids spend time with real friends is to let them do what my mom did: let them decide for themselves.
To speed up the process of making the right decision about who to spend time with, we can give kids a way to self-evaluate the friends or “friends” in their lives.
How to Use the Friendship Checklist
1. Download the Good, True, Real Friend Checklist and print it out (download it below).
2. When your child or student struggles with friendship issues or is unsure about a friend, instead of telling them their friend isn’t a real friend or they should stay clear, hand them the checklist.
3. Go through each item on the checklist and have them evaluate where their friend or “friend” fits.
4. Remind them they deserve good, real, true friends. And remind them they don’t have to be friends with everyone.
When kids decide for themselves a friend isn’t a good friend, they’re much more likely to make a better choice about who to spend time with, confide in, and let influence them.
And when they can spend time with real, good, true friends, their life will be richer and fuller for it. Because a good friend, can make everything better.