All people go through stages in their lives when their friends are few and far between. It might be that you have changed schools, or moved to another place, or some friends have moved away, or maybe you have just never been really good at making friends. Point is, you are lonely, and don’t know where to start.
The other people around you look so cool and you often feel left behind or clueless, or that the friends you do have do not really understand you.
So what can be done?
Accept peoples’ differences. All people are different and not everyone has to do things or behave in the same way. Find other people who feel about things the way you do. That is always a good basis for a friendship. Just by watching what people do and say at school should already give you a clue as to which people are potential friends.
With a little help from my friends. Nurture the friends you do have. Friendships do not just happen, they need work. Phoning a friend once in a while, or being there when they need you, most probably means that they will do the same for you.
Accept all invitations. Even if it is to a neighbourhood street party, you never know who else will be there. Joint experiences, or even dislikes, often form the basis of new friendships. Giggling together about the terrible music or the awful food could start off a new friendship.
Look in familiar places. Your cousins or children of your parents’ friends may have been awful when they were five years old, but who knows what might have happened in the last ten years? Don’t automatically write them off, because they broke the wheel off your toy truck or kicked your sister.
Birds of a feather. Get involved in activities you enjoy outside school, whether those are sports, art classes, dancing classes, cleaning penguins, or whatever blows your hair back. Chances are great that you would meet others there who are likeminded.
Start a club. Extend your existing circle of friends by starting a club of some sorts. Going hiking together or regularly going to the movies need not take up lots of time. You probably need a fair amount of confidence to do this on your own, so maybe do it together with a friend.
Invite people round. Ask your parents whether you can take a friend along when you go out for a family day or away for a weekend. Many friendships have started off in this manner, and chances are your friend might invite you back.
Be loyal and trustworthy. If friends know they can depend on you, they will not drop you. Never gossip about your friends to others as it always gets back to them somehow. By the same token, don’t pass on things which they have told you in confidence. The more people trust you, the more they will confide in you.
Be resistance-wise. You don’t have to follow everything your peer group does, but unless you want to draw lots of not very positive attention, run with the crowd, unless there is some real moral consideration involved. You don’t have to drink or take drugs, because others are doing it, but go with the majority vote on the theme for the Matric dance. Don’t wear the kind of clothes that focuses the ridicule of others on you. It is difficult when you are fourteen to pull it off if you are in eveningwear and everyone else is wearing shorts.
Avoid becoming a teacher’s pet. Other kids in the class always dislike the teacher’s pet, because they are seen as being on some level a traitor to their peers. However, you should never allow others to make you feel that doing well at school is somehow not cool. What is not cool, is being stuck in a lowpaid job for decades because you got three F’s at the end of Matric.
Trust your parents’ instincts. Most of the time you don’t think of your parents when choosing your friends. After all, whose friends are they supposed to be? But generally – certainly not always – when your parents dislike a friend of yours, they are often proved right in the long run and you lose out on both sides. You are both disappointed in your friend and your parents have an opportunity to say, “I told you so”
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated June 2010)