Inside: Help kids decide what treasured, good friendship is with this Treasured Friends Activity so they spend more time with real friends and less time with “friends.”
When I was growing up, I had a lot of circles of friends. I had school friends, and softball friends, and Girl Scout friends, and friends at religious school.
And as I learned in Girl Scouts, some friends are silver, and some are gold.
But I never really “got it” and I often surrounded myself my silver friends thinking they were more gold friends. Which set me up to be in peer relationships that weren’t healthy or mutually beneficial, or even safe.
I had good, true friends that I still talk with today, but in the mix of that, I often lost sight of those friends and spent time with kids who treated me poorly or made me feel badly about myself or only wanted to spend time with me when it benefited them.
Spending time with these “fair weather friends” damaged my self-esteem and created trust issues.
And now as a parent, I watch my kids navigate friendships and relationships with their peers and I want to help them avoid the same pitfalls I fell into when it comes to deciding who to spend time and when to not invest a ton of emotional capital into relationships.
So to do that, we use our Treasured Friends Activity to help them start to decide for themselves who they should spend more time and who they should spend less time with.
Good Friendship vs. Friendly
We are raising kind kids. It’s so essential to our family values, it’s one of our only two family rules. (Educators: It’s also one of the only two classroom rules you’ll need if you want kind students.)
And one of the most important parts of learning how to be kind is learning how to be a good friend.
Friends are crucial for so many reasons: they increase your self-confidence and self-esteem, give you a sense of belonging and inclusion and friends bully-proof our kids.
But this only works if we spend time with good, true friends, rather than fair-weather friends who don’t treat you well.
This has to come with the caveat that we can raise kind kids AND teach them they don’t need to be friends with everyone.
Our kids need to follow the Golden Rule and be friendly–wave, say “hi,” include in a group game–but they don’t have to be friends with people who are unkind to them or be friends with someone who has very different values/interests than them, or be friends with someone who makes them feel uncomfortable/unsafe.
Forcing friendships can set our kids up to be in unsafe situations or in mentally unhealthy peer relationships.
So to help our kids find the right kinds of kids to be friends with, we have to help them decide who they should and should not be friends with.
Related: How to Help Kids Be a Good Friend
Ways to Help Kids Decide Who is a True Good Friend:
We could tell our kids who to be friends with, but that will backfire. When they’re young we can of course guide them and invite over the friends we want them to spend time with for playdates and partner them up with the kind kids.
But as they get older, kids have to know for themselves who is a good friend and who is more of a fake friend.
To help kids decide for themselves, we love using this Good True Friend Checklist. This helps those kids who are drawn to the Mean Girls or the crowd that peer pressures them negatively or the “friend” who treats them poorly.
We can also intentionally teach what makes a good friend with this Emergent Reader I am a Good Friend…
…Or this Early Reader I am a Good Friend with more advanced vocabulary and deeper meaning.
We can read books about friendship like these:
Related: Best Friendship Books
And we use this Treasured Friends Activity to help kids learn to decide for themselves
How to Use the Treasured Friends to Learn More About Treasured, Good Friendship
1. Download and print the Treasured Friends on cardstock paper (download below).
2. Cut out the treasure box, the gold coins and the gems.
3. You can use this in a small group setting at a table or as a whole group and put this up on a bulletin board.
4. Go through each coin one at a time and put the Treasured Friends coins in the treasure box. You can tape them or pin them up.
5. Talk about what Treasured Friends DO NOT do. You can decide as a group if those coins should go in the treasure box or off to the side.
6. You can use the blank coins and add in more ideas that come from kids’ lives or things they’ve experienced with friends and with “friends.”
7. Remind them to be friendly to everyone and to speak and act in ways that show they are a good, treasured friend.
But also remind them as they interact with their peers they have to constantly decide if the people they spend time with are a friend or a “friend.”
And they have to decide who are those gold friends…and who are their silver friends.