I've been doing Skype in the Classroom sessions about Real Friends vs the Other Kind since September 2013. Even did one in Croatia! Recently I beamed into an 8th grade class in Philadelphia. I'm sharing my Q&A with the students to help you help your kids deal with peer conflicts in ways that develop character while improving overall school climate.
Student #1: What would you do if you had a friend you couldn’t trust, but you were trying to give them another chance?
Annie: It’s good to give second chances. We all make mistakes, right? Sometimes we’re rude and end up hurting a friend. Before you give someone another chance, you need to talk about what happened. Say to your friend, “What you did makes me not trust you. I want to give you another chance, but first tell me what the heck was going on when you did that?!” A real friend will stop and think. If they say something like: “I’m really sorry. This is why I did it. I promise I won't do that again.” Then you can say, “Cool” and move forward in the friendship.
But if your friend doesn't want to talk about it, they’re not taking responsibility for any part of what happened. You may want to trust them again, but if the problem isn't cleared up, it's likely they will do it again. If you still want to give them another chance, proceed with caution.
Student #2: What should you do if you know your friend is talking about you?
Annie: You can’t pretend you don’t know what's going on, so you and your friend need to talk about this. But watch your attitude. If I’m angry and I shout at my friend: “Hey, I heard that you’re talking about me!" he will feel attacked and defend himself. They may say, “I don't know what you're talking about!” when they know exactly why you are upset. Calm down first and then talk to your friend. You might say, “I know you’ve been talking about me and it makes me wonder if you’re a real friend.” Then you close your mouth and listen to what they have to say. After this conversation, you decide what’s right for you.
Student #3: Have you ever felt like if you didn’t have a best friend you weren’t normal?
Not having a bestie can be lonely. Sometimes you might wonder, “What’s wrong with me?” There’s nothing “wrong” with you. In fact, I guarantee there is so much that is right with you. For one thing, you may have high standards for yourself and for the people you call friends. That’s a good thing. If you are your own best friend, you'll always have at least one person to count on. Being cool with who you are lets you be cool with spending time on your own. That's something a lot of people enjoy even if they've got other friends.
If you want new friends or more friends, you need to know what a real friend is. Complete this sentence in a way that makes it true for you: I want a friend who is _____________. (kind, funny, respectful, etc.) Fill in the blank until you're out of ideas. Use this as your “shopping list.” Think about what you’re looking for and keep your standards high, for yourself and for other people.
Before time was up, I asked the students what they usually learn in this class. "Math and science" was the answer. Not what I expected, so I asked the teacher why he wanted me to give the kids a lesson on Real Friends vs the Other Kind.
Teacher: Once a week we have open discussions where people talk about their lives and share. Friendship is an important topic for us.
Annie (to students): You guys are very lucky to have a teacher who says, "Talking about relationships and feelings and resolving conflicts may not be math or science, but it is important and I'm going to make time to discuss it.' That's awesome. There are not enough teachers like the one you have."