“They love me. They love me not.” The age-old yearning applies to the uncertainties of early romance but also to the world of middle school friendships. Or even better: sing along with the greatest Toy Story song of all, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” (well, sort of!). “You’ve got a friend in me” (okay, maybe!). But amid the light-heartedness lies a stark reality: there are few relationships as complex as middle school friendships. They're on, they're off; they're good, they're bad; they're inclusive, they're exclusive; they're all these “things.” Yet, what we often overlook as parents is that within this tumultuous whirlwind of emotions, it's entirely normal. In fact, it's a valuable opportunity for teaching and growth.
In elementary school, friendships come effortlessly. Upon being assigned to a classroom, they find themselves instantly surrounded by 20 friends, all attending the same parties and sharing experiences throughout the year. While there are preferences for some kids over others and a few tolerable but challenging relationships, they manage to cultivate mutual affection despite their differences. It's a delightful period. However, as they transition to Middle School, the dynamics change drastically. Each day feels like a continuous tryout for a team. With students switching classes every period, new faces emerge, forcing them to assess their social position contstantly. Questions like who to sit next to, commonalities with classmates, friendliness, acceptance, and integration into the class become paramount. They eventually find some footing, albeit temporarily, only to have to start the process anew when the bell rings.
So, how can we, as parents, stand by our children through the trials and tribulations of middle school friendships? It begins with a conversation: Talk to them often and openly about the qualities of a true friend, and about the kind of friend they are. Stress to them that the terms “friend” and “person” aren't interchangeable. Someone can be a wonderful person but not a good friend. Being a good friend is a skill that has to be cultivated, and our children need guidance in this regard. Being a good friend is a learned behavior that has to be taught in real time. Use circumstances in their lives, your lives, and the lives of others to show them examples of a good friend. Share with them what God says about this. Some great scriptures to use in these discussions are:
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians. 5:11 ESV).
Kids struggle when others around them are being successful and their natural response is to tear that person down in order to level the social playing field. Teach your kids to celebrate others' successes, even when it's challenging. Encouraging and supporting their peers not only reflects their own growth as a friend but also the development of their loving and caring nature.
“bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13 ESV).
Disagreements and hurts can strengthen relationships. Your children should learn to move past these hurts and grow the love they share with their friends.
“A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17: ESV).
This verse underscores the steadfast nature of true friendships, where love endures through all circumstances.
It's important for them to grasp that friendships are fluid, constantly evolving, and typically fall into one of three categories:
- Situational friends. These are the friends tied to common places or activities, with connections that are on the surface and fleeting. They're present during shared moments but lack depth, akin to casual acquaintances, like the 100 kids in your grade or the 35 teammates who play football with you.
- Your group. From your situational friends, you'll select five to seven of them to form your group. These friends are the ones with whom you participate in personal events, like birthday parties and sleepovers. While these relationships can bring joy and fun experiences, they may not always fulfill all your needs.
- True friends. From your group, you'll choose one or two who are your true heart friends. These are rare and valuable friendships that encourage personal growth, guide you toward wise choices, and share your beliefs. These are the friends who push you to be your best and align with your values and goals.
At Legacy, we understand that middle school friendships can be both joyful and challenging, with an impact on not just students’ school experience but also their overall well-being. That's why we have a team of three dedicated divisional counselors who are here to provide essential support. Not only do they assist our students in navigating the complexities of friendships, but they also extend their guidance and understanding to parents and families. By working together, we create a nurturing environment in which students can build meaningful connections, grow in confidence, and face the social intricacies of adolescence with resilience and kindness.
Your children’s journey through middle school is important to us, and we are committed to helping them thrive socially and emotionally, ensuring a positive and enriching experience for the entire family.
Lana Snear currently serves as the South Campus Counselor at Legacy Christian Academy. She came to Legacy in 2018 with previous experience working in private practice, as well as other private and public school districts. Dr. Snear received her Doctorate degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University. She holds a license in psychology, school psychology, and a certification in professional Christian counseling. She has been married for 30 years, has 4 children, and a new granddaughter. She loves the relationships she has gotten to build with the students and families at Legacy. Her over-arching goal is that each student would know they are ‘seen' and have great value. KNOWTICE OTHERS=Notice others + Know Others
Dr. Snear has crafted several blogs for our families including the Middle School Romance blog.
Legacy Christian Academy is Frisco's preeminent Pre-K through 12 Christian school committed to educating students in a college preparatory environment balanced in academics, athletics, and fine arts–all within the context of a biblical worldview. For more information on Legacy, visit our admissions page.