|

Dear Steph, 

I’m really worried about going back to school. Lockdown meant I lost time with friends in school and not being able to hang out lots means that I don’t really have a best friend. Could you help? How do I deal with it when I can’t figure out how to make friends? And what do I do when I go back to school with no best friends. A lot of my classmates are popping from one person to another and it just makes me confused? Thanks. 

 

Hey There,

Let’s talk about friendship.

Your girls, pals, buddies, mates, chums, besties, “sisters”. Your family outside your family. Peas in a pod. Sharing & caring. Best friends forever. Sounds nice right? But it’s not a reality for everyone.

So, what is friendship? Friendship means “a mutual bond” between two people. A connection. Friends play an important role in our lives at every age, but particularly in our teenage years. Our social circle IS our world. A lot of what we do is an effort to find our tribe. To belong. To connect. Having good friendships boosts our self-esteem and provides us with a safe place to open up.

So what happens when we struggle to make that connection? Or when we’ve lost a connection? Or maybe a friend broke a connection with us? It’s really, really tough.

Here’s a few tips if you’re struggling:

Connecting with others:

Get to know yourself first. Who are you, really? What do you like? What do you value? What are your qualities? And how do you communicate all of that to others? Asking yourself these questions will help you to connect with yourself first, which will make it easier to connect with others.

Drifting apart:

So you had a friend. And you were super close all through primary school. And then you went to different secondary schools and now you barely ever see each other. There was no fight. No ending. But it seems over. Nothing. This is a tough one, because we like to believe that everything lasts forever. But some people are only meant to be in our lives for a certain period of time. These friendships are hard to let go of because they don’t always end – they just drift away from us. But that’s ok. Those friendships do exactly what they were meant to do – you both learned from each other and you have memories that will last forever. And sometimes, when secondary school is done, and college is done, sometimes you find each other again. And sometimes you don’t. And that’s ok.

Broken connections:

Conflict hurts. Falling out with your friends really hurts. Being excluded hurts even more. There is a minefield that exists when it comes to friendships; there are so many highs and lows. From the laughter, the inside jokes, and the adventures, to the tears, the fights, and the bitter text messages. We can all be super sweet, and we can all be pretty petty too. Conflict is normal in friendship. We need it. We need to disagree and rant and voice our opinions with each other. It doesn’t always mean that the friendship has to end. We might have lots in common with each other but we’re not clones – we have different thoughts and opinions and that’s ok. So let’s say a friend dropped you? Reach out to her. See if she’s willing to talk it through. And if not, that’s ok. It doesn’t mean that you’re alone, it just means that she’s not ready to grow with you.

Building circles:

You will find that you have different levels of connections with different people. Some are really close, some are more surface-level, some are just acquaintances in school or sport. But all are valuable. Don’t judge any of them as being better or worse than the other. The more people we have in our lives, from different backgrounds, who think differently to us, and do different things to us, the better. Our world will be much more colourful and interesting the more people we invite in. So look beyond your immediate group to people who might be different to you and get to know them. Be curious; ask them who they are and what they like. You’d be surprised at how connections can be made when you show genuine interest in someone else.

You, Yourself, and You:

It’s ok to go through periods of time where you are solitary. When it seems like everyone else is living and you’re in pause mode. Spending time with ourselves is just as important as spending time with others. We need a balance. So be your own best friend too. But don’t ever feel alone. Because you’re not. There are people out there you just haven’t met yet, who you’re going to have amazing connections with. Keep getting to know yourself and you will find them.

 

If you’re struggling with friendships and would like a bit more one-to-one advice, you can chat to Steph in private through the Ask Steph initiative – drop her an email at steph@shona.ie, she’d love to hear from you 🥰