Friendships are important at every age, but the friendships formed in middle school and high school can make a major impact at this highly-impressionable time. The Journal of Educational Psychology recently surveyed 242 middle school students and found that “students begin to form a sense of self based in part on their interactions with their peers. They also tend to look to each other for help and support as they make other important physical, cognitive and school-related transitions" (Vol. 96, No. 2).
This is all to say, making friends is important for a student’s well-being and growth!
It’s common, especially in private and boarding schools, for students to have two different groups of friends. There are home friends and school friends.
School friends are those people you see every day, sit next to in class, do projects with, laugh with at lunch, and wave goodbye to at the end of the day. They are your friends at school, and generally, you don’t hang out with them outside of school. But could that change?
Over my years of teaching at CH-CH, I’ve worked with many kids who have lots of connections at school - friends they see in class, friends they eat lunch with, friends they play sports with after school. These friendships with their school friends are often so strong, that they want them to carry over to the weekend.
Since CH-CH is an independent school, students here come from towns all around eastern Massachusetts. This means it is often unlikely that school friends from CH-CH would run into each other on the weekend. They shop at different malls, play in different private or town-based sports leagues, and go to different movie theaters. But if many students are looking to turn their school friends into home friends, what can they do?
I spoke with several pairs of friends who have bridged that gap and moved from being “school friends” to being “weekend friends”, and I asked them about what made the difference. They had some words of advice:
Find common ground
For instance, if your teacher announces yet another test and you notice your school friend sigh or roll his eyes, offer to study together. You can meet up on campus during free time and share your notes. You can quiz each other, make flash cards, do practice problems, etc. (For more study ideas, see this blog post.) This kind of shared experience elevates friendship and increases the bond you have with someone.
Don’t just jump right into “Want to hang out this weekend?”
Instead, look for opportunities to deepen your friendship on campus during the week. For instance, you could stay for dinner one night and invite a school friend to do the same. Or you could attend a school team’s game together after school one day. These are low-pressure ways to naturally build-up your friendship.
Seize easy hang-out opportunities
If your school is offering a weekend community service activity, sign up with a friend. If there’s a school ski trip one weekend, gather a group to go together. These are nice entry points that don’t put a lot of stress on either friend.
Remember that there are TONS of kids looking to do more and to build closer friendships. Follow the advice above, take a chance, and make a friendship that will last. You both will benefit!