It is common for me to write an article about friendship around this stage of the school year. In the last few weeks, the Year Coordinators and I have noticed that many girls are experiencing challenges in their friendships as these begin to shift, or dynamics are impacted by weariness. Having friends is an important part of school life, but every friendship does experience seasons of conflict or misunderstanding. It can be quite distressing and tricky to navigate when girls face challenges in their friendships, as they are still in the process of learning the skills needed to respond to each other effectively.
Here are a few key pieces of advice and strategies that the Pastoral team at Meriden regularly reminds girls about as they respond to different scenarios that emerge in their friendship circles:
Friendship involves compromise: We remind girls that friendship involves compromise. We encourage them to not insist on choosing the topics of conversation and social activities but be willing to compromise at times to care for their friends.
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.
If your daughter is facing challenges in her friendships, allow her the space to talk about it with you and listen. If the problem does not settle or you would like some advice on how to help your daughter navigate these challenges, please do not hesitate to get in touch with her Year Coordinator.
“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