In Year 7 we have recently had a great 7SR tutor assembly around positive relationships. We all agreed that it was a very useful topic of information.
Building on this assembly, I have been talking with some Year 7 students about the friendship issues they have been having and these tips might help all our students, not just the younger girls to identify the signs of an unhealthy relationship and either work to improve things or find a way to get some space.
Here are some signs that a friendship might be becoming unhealthy:
|The drama is growing||Friendships shouldn’t be stressful. If you notice your friendship is full of drama, it might mean it is time to get some space.|
|Your friend is being controlling||Adding new people to the mix of an existing friendship can cause a little bit of friction even in the best friendships. This is very normal, however, a friend who becomes extremely jealous or angry because you are spending time with a new person might not be a good friend to have. Also, if a friend tries to tell you who you can and cannot hang out with, it is probably a sign you are in an unhealthy relationship. While friendships take work and sometimes need adjustments, make sure your friends are supportive and understanding of your growth, both personally and socially.|
|They get cross with you easily, and a lot||Good friends can bicker. However, if you notice your friend is always cross with you or gets angry easily and reacts in an extreme way (ignoring you for hours or days for no apparent reason), it might be a sign it is time to give yourself some space. Healthy friendships are founded on trust and good communication. This means that you should be able to talk to each other openly about your feelings and are both willing to work out any potential problems.|
|They are pressuring you to do things you don’t want to do or that you know will get you in trouble||Healthy friendships are based on respect and support. Good friends support you and your boundaries, even if they differ from theirs. A good friend should never pressure you to do something you are uncomfortable with or that they know will get you in to trouble.|
|They are mean or unkind to you||While it is important to be open and honest in a friendship, there is big a difference between sharing your opinion and feelings, and saying something that is intentionally hurtful. A friend should never make fun of you, even in jest, or call you names. Put-downs or negative statements, often played off as jokes, from friends are significantly more painful than those from other peers. Good friends are honest in a gentle and kind way and are careful of your feelings.|
|They are mean to others||Leopards don’t change their spots. Sometimes, the best way to know if a relationship is going to be unhealthy or healthy is to observe how the other person treats and has treated other friends. If a person is constantly wrapped up in drama or has had a lot of fallings-out with others, it is likely your friendship will have the same outcome.|
We may see these ‘red flags’ in our friendships, but what do we do about it? Although it can be very upsetting, some people will stay in unhealthy friendships until they break. Unfortunately, a lot of pain and damage is usually already done when it gets to this point. However, there are ways to end an unhealthy friendship in a way that preserves everybody’s feelings.
Here are some tips for ending an unhealthy friendship:
- Begin spending more time apart. One of the best ways to end an unhealthy relationship is to begin moving towards healthy relationships and limiting your time with friends you feel have become unhealthy. If you do this when you start noticing the ‘red flag’ signs, you can do it gradually and it doesn’t have to be a dramatic break. An example might be that if you get asked to go into town, politely decline. You can say you have other plans, need to do homework, or a parent/family member has said no. Most parents/carers are very happy being the “bad guy,” especially when it means supporting you to move away from an unhealthy friendship.
- Give yourself some space. This can be difficult when you see the person every day in school. However, there are creative ways to get a little space. If you see this person a lot around school, you can change the route you walk to lesson. You can ask your teacher, if it’s possible, to change where you sit in class so you have some space. You can stay away from your “normal” social areas until things settle. But remember that giving yourself some space does not mean avoidance and ignoring. In our community we will always encourage you to be civil; continue to be polite and acknowledge the other person. Ignoring someone completely may create even more drama. If they approach you to talk about your change in behaviour towards them, it is probably best to be honest. If it feels unsafe or uncomfortable to have that conversation alone, you can always ask a trusted adult for support.
- Get advice and support. When in doubt, seek support from a trusted adult. They can help you identify strategies on how to handle the situation to support a positive outcome.