Thoughtful Parenting: 5 hidden friendship truths that confuse kids (adults, too)

Jessica Speer
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — School is back in full swing, which means friendship struggles may be as well. Given the wide range of social skills in a single classroom, it’s no wonder that struggles unfold. Here are five hidden truths about friendship that kids find helpful as they learn to navigate their social world.

Truth No. 1: Friendships change over time.

Friendship changes can be difficult and confusing for kids, but it’s common. Being placed in different classes or even group dynamics can prompt friendship changes. Understanding that change is normal may not make it easier or less painful, but it helps a little. Be sure to remind kids that all we can really control is ourselves by being the type of friend we want to have.

Truth No. 2: Everyone develops healthy friendship skills at a different pace, so misunderstandings happen.

Friendship requires many skills, like communication, flexibility, respect and honesty. Because kids are developing these skills at different rates, conflict and mistakes are common. Encourage kids to keep practicing healthy friendship skills and to apologize when they goof up. 

Truth No. 3: Healthy friendships feel safe and accepting.

Elementary and middle school is a great time to begin to discuss the qualities of healthy friendships. Encourage kids to notice which friendships feel safe and accepting. Remind them that sometimes kids with really strong friendship qualities may not have the “most” friends. And that sometimes kids with the “most” friends do not make the “best” friends. 

Truth No. 4: “Close friendships” can be hard to find and may not happen until middle school or later.

Most kids have a range of pals that fall into the “friend” category, including classmates, neighbors, teammates, etc. For some kids, “close friends” are harder to find. In fact, many kids may not have any “close friends” until middle school or later. This can be a relief to kids who feel like everyone has a best friend except them. It’s important for all kids to have a friend, but close friendships may not happen for some kids until later. 

Truth No. 5: You choose which of your friendships to grow. Grow the healthy ones.

Kids sometimes don’t realize that they can choose to put more energy into the friendships they want to grow. Encourage kids to treat everyone with kindness and respect, but remind them that they can put more time and energy into growing their healthy friendships. And encourage kids to stay open to making new friends too.

Jessica Speer is a children’s book author and advocate for kids and families. Her book, “BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? Girls Guide to Happy Friendship,” will be released in 2020. She blogs about kids and parenting at

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