Expert Author Susan Leigh
There are times in life when young people have to accept that there is a need to start over and make new friends. They may have moved school, have fallen out with their old friends or are simply feeling restless and dissatisfied with their existing arrangements. It's time to move on, introduce new interests and enjoy a change.
Here are a few thoughts for young people when the time comes for them to make new friends:
- It may be important to first look at improving your confidence and self-esteem levels. Some young people feel that making friends from scratch is a scary prospect; who would want to be their friend, how do they start? First reflect on all your good qualities, the things you do well, the fact that you have people who like and accept you as you are. Stop the negative self talk and allow a more positive attitude and outlook to emerge.
- Identify what interests you, the type of music you like, the things that you enjoy. There is no point in regularly agreeing to go on shopping expeditions, watch football matches or attend concerts if you're really not interested in those things. Decide what you do like to do, what appeals to you and then identify those people who are interested in those activities. See if there's a club, group or society which provides regular meetings where you can mix with people who have similar interests to you on a regular basis.
- Take new relationships steady. If you go somewhere regularly, like the shopping mall, a club, a sports track, what about those people who go at a similar time to you? Smile and say 'hello'. There's sure to be an opportunity where you can strike up a conversation, ask if they have time for a coffee or would perhaps be interested in seeing a film sometime. At school there are opportunities to chat on a more regular basis, to discuss homework, teachers, other school friends and grow a relationship more steadily.
- Notice how other people socialise. Social skills are learned over time. In nursery school new children stand to one side and watch how the group interacts before they decide to join in. They determine which children they like, who they'd feel most comfortable with, learn what is regarded as 'normal' behaviour, discover who they'd feel uneasy with. As we become a little older forming new relationships is no different. Discovering what is regarded as acceptable in a group enables a newcomer to adapt and fit in more easily.
- Be flexible. Sometimes it's important to have a go and try new experiences. Saying 'yes' to opportunities is important as a way of expanding your circle of interests but equally it's important not to regularly go along with things out of a desire to please others, fit in or be accepted. Doing that is a recipe for longer term frustration and unhappiness. Plus it sends out the wrong message; that you like and are interested in things that you're really not that keen on.
- Accept invitations. Whilst it's not a good idea to regularly do what you don't like to do, occasionally going somewhere new, even somewhere that may not sound too appealing can be a useful introduction to new people or interests. And you may surprise yourself at how well the opportunity turns out.
- Rejection shouldn't necessarily be taken personally. Sometimes people are busy doing other things, are not especially keen on your suggestion or are genuinely not available. Remember, there are some times when you too will have to decline invitations for similar reasons. Be pragmatic, maybe ask for feedback on your suggestions and focus on developing the people and activities that appeal to you.
- Keep positive and have a second choice up your sleeve. If there are times, even on your birthday, when you've nothing arranged, use that time to do things that you like, and maybe do them with family. Let your family look after you, give you treats, spoil you. Choose your favourite things to eat, spend an evening watching that film you've long wanted to see, use the time to read a book or listen to music and enjoy having time for yourself.
Accept that not everyone in life will be a special friend. Over time we all acquire an assortment of people who are great friends but some may be limited to certain spheres of our lives; some may be great pals at school, others may be people we spend time with in our neighbourhood, then there is family and, as we get older, work colleagues get added into the mix.
Appreciate the different relationships and accept their role in your life and even their limitations. Enjoy the different opportunities that these relationships bring into your life. By adopting a more chilled attitude you may well find it easier to make new friends, have a full social diary, gain several real friends and acquire many interesting activities to enjoy.