Teach Friendship

Most friendships just evolve. Our closest friends typically end up being people with whom we share a common activity or interest. In terms of living emotionally healthy, constructive, fulfilling lives, nothing matters much more than who we become friends with and whether they inspire us to be better or worse people than we would be without them.

Because we aren’t as intentional as we might be about our friendships, we assume the young people we have responsibility for will just “find their way”. Experience is a great teacher, but parents, teachers, coaches, youth pastors, and other adults that regularly work with young people should explicitly teach friendship. Choosing friends that inspire is a learned skill. Just hope that those types of friendships naturally evolve at your children’s and your own risk.

Those were my thoughts while reading a nice one-pager by KJ Fields titled “How to spot an unhealthy relationship” in Group Health’s Spring 2011 NWHealth magazine. Thanks to Fields for providing a tool for teaching friendship. These are signs that a relationship may be bad for you:

  • You don’t feel respected or listened to.
  • The other person’s opinion is always the one that matters most.
  • Your feelings are belittled.
  • You act differently around this person, fearing disapproval or anger.
  • You feel worried and tense about the relationship, rather than enjoying it.
  • You’re always the one to make the effort or compromise.
  • Your values and beliefs are far apart.
  • The other person is overly critical of you, and frequently insults you.
  • You find yourself lying to hide information from the other person.

That’s a nice conceptual framework for dinner table, school, or youth group conversations with adolescents especially about peer relations in general and dating relationships more specifically.