Educating Girls

Nurturing Friendships at Meriden

Mrs Chilton
Head of Student Wellbeing

Having good friends is an important part of school life, as is navigating the inevitable seasons of challenge or conflict within those friendships. Girls at Meriden have access to the Pastoral Team, who are available to help the students respond to the complexities of their relationships with peers.

Our philosophy and practice are driven by a combination of mental health research and biblical principles. As teachers and parents, we can give students the space to talk through their issues and seek reconciliation and growth as much as is possible.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” – Colossians 3:13

There are some key pieces of advice and strategies that the Pastoral Team at Meriden regularly offers to students experiencing difficulties in their friendships:

Friendship involves compromise: We encourage girls to not insist on choosing the topics of conversation and social activities, but to be willing to compromise at times to care for their friends. We also suggest that girls keep ‘open circles’ when sitting together, so that friends can come and go without judgement.

Give it time: Often, when conflict emerges, there is an innate human tendency to catastrophise the issue. We encourage the girls to not view the issue as permanent and try to acknowledge that everyone has bad days. Sometimes, not responding immediately, abstaining from reaching out to your friend on social media throughout the evening, and allowing time for the situation to settle helps the conflict to dissolve.

Look for solutions, not just problems: Rather than just focusing on what has gone wrong, we encourage the girls to think about how they can seek reconciliation in the friendship. Even if they are not the ones who “started it”, we try to get the girls to reflect on how they can take steps to open a conversation where they can honestly express how they are feeling and find a way forward.

Do not have a fixed mindset about your group: At Meriden, we encourage the girls to have open circles so that girls can join groups at any time, move groups if dynamics change or their interests change, and welcome new students to the school. At times, girls can feel trapped in a group, especially if they have been friends for a long time. Research demonstrates that girls really only need one or two good friends at school to thrive. Sometimes, the big group dynamic can be more harmful than helpful.

Friends should build you up, not tear you down: Ultimately, we encourage the girls to make friends with those who encourage them. We regularly remind girls not to say things to others (either face-to-face or online) that they would not want to be said to themselves.


Making New Friends at School

For students who are worried about attending school due to friendship issues, or a lack of friendships, there are ways forward at Meriden to help them build new relationships.

Cocurricular activities are designed so that students can not only enjoy their chosen activity, but have plenty of space to meet new people and start friendships. Doing an activity side-by-side with someone – whether it’s a musical endeavour, coding a robot, or hiking on a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition – is a low-pressure way to get to know them and start chatting.

There are many different cocurricular opportunities at Meriden, and I encourage all students and parents to consider what activities they might enjoy as they expand their friendships and relationships.

For students who are struggling, parents can reach out to their daughter’s Year Coordinator so they can take a proactive approach to supporting them. The start of a new term is a good time to help students find new friends if they need help doing this.

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