A woman in middle school girls ministry once shared with me a term that describes the state of friendships in the middle school years.
In other words, friendships can change a lot in this stage of life. They may ebb and flow as everyone makes new friends, explores new friendships, and sometimes grows apart.
The growing apart may not be intentional; it’s often a matter of not having classes together or the same extra-curricular activities.
We typically become close with the people we see the most, and as teenagers evolve in their passions, personalities, and circumstances, their relationships evolve too.
This is a tricky thing to navigate for girls and their moms. While I’ve been really proud of the friend choices my daughters have made — and I feel certain that many friends, including old friends from elementary school, will be friends for life — it’s hard to see an old friendship slip away and wonder [whatever] happened to that cute girl you used to see all the time.
Why don’t you have Isabella over anymore? I don’t hear much about her — is everything okay? The response is often something like, “Yeah, I love Isabella, I just never see her.” Nothing specific happened; it’s just that life is busy, and there isn’t enough time in the day to spend time with everyone you like.
Sometimes girls drift apart for a reason. Sometimes a falling out triggers sudden mistrust. A girl who your daughter thought was a friend (in my book I call them 50/50 friends) does something hurtful or mean. Or a group of girls may gang up on one girl because she made the leader mad. The scenarios are endless, and the lesson to be learned is that girls sometimes must learn the hard way what true friendship looks like.
The overriding point is, friendships change. Friendships get put to the test, and only time will tell what the final shake-out will be.
So what’s the solution? I don’t have that, but I do have some thoughts to share with your daughter if she feels insecure or worried about friendship fluctuations:
1. It’s normal for friendships to evolve and change. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It simply means you’re growing up.
2. Everything will be okay. In time your friendships will solidify, and you’ll know more clearly who is good for you and meant to be in your life. Be patient, pray for good friends, and pray to be a good friend. Remember that true friends are worth the wait.
3. Rather than focus on finding the right friends, concentrate on being the right friend. There’s a saying that “Water seeks its own level,” and this means that people are drawn to others who are like them. So when you treat people well, you’ll attract friends who treat you well too. By holding yourself to high standards, becoming the friend you wish to find, and choosing to be an encourager rather than a critic, you set yourself up for positive and long-lasting relationships.
4. Even when you find your “people”, always leave room at the table to invite someone new in. Last Friday night we took my daughter and some friends to a restaurant to celebrate her birthday. A classmate was eating nearby with her family, and we invited her to join us. This girl was a delight, and I fell in love with her. I was thankful to meet her since my daughter had never been in her class or had the same activities.
Monday at school, she gave [my] daughter a friendship bracelet that she’d made as a thank you. I was speechless, because what this girl didn’t realize what was a gift she was to us.
This event reminded me of what can happen when you invite someone new to join you, and how many great opportunities we all let pass by when we’re hyper-focused on our friends. One regret I have from high school and college is not reaching out more beyond my circle and letting God open the door to unexpected blessings. Be smarter than me and learn this lesson early.
5. Love your friends well, but keep a loose grip. Give them space to explore new friendships and explore new friendships yourself. The great thing about middle school is that there are so many people to meet. As multiple elementary schools merge, it’s a prime opportunity to make new friends and get to know different people who bring out different sides of you. Stay loyal to your old friends and know who you count on, but keep yourself open to making fun new connections.