Paris Andrew, TIP’s Director of Partnerships and Engagement, is here to help gifted students. She used to run the residential programming at TIP’s educational programs, and she is completing a PhD in related areas, so she knows what she’s talking about.
My mom always told me it is okay not to have REALLY CLOSE friends because they could always backstab you and it would hurt really badly. I did have close friends; most of them were boys. I’m part of their society now. But now my girlfriends are drifting away on logs. To be honest, I haven’t been very considerate lately. I’m a tomboy, and they think it is disgusting, but I still have some girl-like attributes inside. Please Paris, how do you show that you still care but still have the boyish feeling inside you? —RayReader, fourth grade
I’m giving you a virtual high-five right now because I absolutely resonate with you on being a tomboy. Being caring and considerate, like good friends should be, is a state of mind, and it doesn’t have to be gendered. Stop counting how many individuals of a particular gender are to your left or right and you’ll be fine. Does it really matter what gender they are if they are good friends, give you what you need out of their friendships, and let you be yourself?
Without reading too much into your letter, it sounds a little bit like you feel judged by your former girlfriends. And it may be that you are being judged by them, for all kinds of reasons out of your control. But do you want to be friends with people who make you feel judged? Or do you want to be friends with people, regardless of their gender, who let you be yourself and appreciate the same qualities in you that you kind of like in yourself.
That’s the most comfortable friendship. And you know what? It takes confidence to be yourself, especially when you are in middle school. But if you can do it, you will attract people who admire you for that ability and who appreciate you exactly as you are—and I am willing to bet that will include all kinds of people. So just concentrate on being who you want to be, and on being a good friend to others by accepting them as they are. The friendships will come and a natural level of closeness will emerge as well. Good luck!
My parents want me to go to a private school, but I want to stay at my school with my friends. My parents know I’ll make new friends, but I want to keep my old ones. I feel like I finally made really good friends, I had a hard time finding really good friends. —Scare Sixth-Grader-To-Be, fifth grader
Dear Scared Sixth-Grader-To-Be,
First of all, I congratulate you on recognizing the feeling you are having and naming it for what it is. But did you know that there is one thing in this world that frightens almost everyone—and that one thing is change.
When we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, it’s easy to full in the blanks with the things we fear the most, like having to eat lunch alone at school every day, or having everyone look through you, or accidentally getting trapped inside your locker and never being seen again. (I threw that last example in just because it can help to exaggerate your fears until the point where they get ridiculous and you can finally laugh at them, recognizing that none of them are actually real and they’re all just in your imagination.)
But the truth is that the things we fear the most very, very rarely actually happen. So don’t let those imagined fears get the most of you—you are far more resilient than you think and, obviously, skilled at making good friends or you would not be sad at leaving them behind to go to a new school. In other words, you have made friends before and you will make them again. That’s a portable skill, and, besides, there’s a lot of benefits to adding new friends to your roster of old friends.
Remember that great feeling you had when you connected with one of your current friends for the first time? It probably felt organic and effortless because something was said or done that magically drew you together in friendship. You recognized a kindred spirit in each other. Those feelings are priceless and I’m sure you have tons of other great memories with your current friends. But now, as you transition to another school, you’ll get to go through a similar cycle of turning a new leaf and increasing the parameters of your friend zone. Trust the process in the same way you did with your current friends, and soon enough, you’ll have new friends and tons more great memories to share with others.
As for your old friends: even if you feel like you just started to get some momentum going with your current friends, remember that there are tons of ways to stay in touch and keep the friendship going. Whether by email, phone, texting, or social media, you can take turns reporting on each other’s lives. Sharing your unique experiences with each other will not only broaden your perspective on life, it can help you sort things out in your own head to describe what you are going through to others.
And remember that you don’t have to be there every day with someone for them to appreciate you as a friend and vice versa. See them on weekends or holidays if you miss being with them. Your parents would probably be glad to help you make a plan to stay in touch before you switch to the new school, and knowing that you will see your old friends soon enough can help with the transition. Good luck!