Monday, January 28, 2013


Help your children develop the right friendships

Your 11-year-old daughter comes home in tears. She tells you the girls she’s been friends with forever are leaving her out of the group. She doesn’t know what she has done wrong. She’s confused, and nervous about returning to school because, “I don’t have any friends.” You are also confused because your daughter is outgoing, personable, and fun-loving.

Friendships are important to the development of a child. They help children be independent from the family and provide them with the building blocks to develop mutual and trusting relationships. The pre-teen and teen years are a time when children attempt to figure out how they want to fit in as well as how they want to stand out from the rest of the group. It ‘s natural for children to be concerned about fitting in, being popular, hanging out with the cool, pretty or popular classmates and feelings of insecurity. 

Cliques are common in middle and high school. According to, a clique is a group of friends that all dress and act in a certain way. Cliques are also “exclusive,” meaning that not everyone who would like the join the clique can. In a clique, everything is done together; they go to the mall together, they eat lunch together at the same table and are often active in the same school activities. Cliques involve lots of rules, either implied or clearly stated; such as wearing specific brands of clothing or participating in certain activities. 

Cliques and group friendships are extremely different. Friendships develop from shared interests in sports, classes, activities, and coming from the same neighborhood. Groups of friends do not exclude others from joining their activities, they also allow members to socialize and hang out with others not within the group without worry about being thrown out of the group. 

What can a parent do to help? Here are a few pointers:

•  Talk about your own experiences.
•  Remind your child that things quickly change.
•  Find books, TV shows and movies that have strong messages about facing rejection and standing true to your own morals and values.
•  Try to enroll in out-of-school programs and activities to foster friendships apart from school.

With reality TV shows promoting rejecting others, as well as deceitful and rude behavior, try to discuss ways to empower your children to stand up for themselves or others. Talk about the real secret to being popular: being the kind of friend they would want — one that is kind, respectful, supportive, caring, trustworthy and fun.

Lisa Cook is a community education nurse for the Backus Health System. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Cook or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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