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Stable friendships for adolescents: more important than school?

modern education
Content
Lesedauer: 5 Minuten

My mistake

I made a big mistake during my children’s school career. When my older daughter was in middle school, I moved and thought: “Oh, the child can cope with a change of school like that.” And of course, many children share this fate and have to deal with it somehow. Today I know that it was a disaster for my daughter. She was completely uprooted and settled into the new school so badly that we decided together after the first year at the new school that the only thing that could help was to change schools again, because this school had been completely burned. Classmates, teachers, school management, curriculum: everything was reset.

The new start made things a little better, but my daughter didn’t really feel involved anymore. Of course, for some children, changing school might not be a big issue. But for some children it is.

And when I think back to my own school career? I thought school was really stupid from secondary school onwards. The subject matter bored me, the teachers were incompetent or uninterested and the lessons demanded all my composure. But you know what? I never thought about leaving school before my Abitur. Why? Because that was half my world. Or maybe even a bit more. My friends, the feeling of having a good place in a group, of having responsibility. After all, I spent up to seven hours there almost every day for many years. More time than with my family or friends outside of school. Of course, it’s a part of home. And many friendships continue to this day. Two of my best school friends are my daughters’ godmothers and I’m even still together with the long-haired guy from my art class after we met again at the 20-year graduation reunion.

Today I know that it wasn’t because of the school itself, but because the school provided a framework. A framework in which I could fit in socially – and that is an important, stability-giving factor for adolescents at a time when things are shaky at every turn. With my parents, with my siblings and with my own feelings.

So if you have chosen a life model in which you have to or want to move frequently, we offer you a school model that adapts to your requirements. This means that your child not only takes their school with them, but also their friendships, instead of having to break away from their social relationships every two years. (You can find more advantages in the article: Traveling with school-age children? Of course!)

Adolescence – the time of growing up

Adolescence can be described as a time of growing up. The WHO has defined the period of adolescence from the age of ten to the age of 20. During these ten years, people go through important physical and psychological development processes. In the first phase, puberty, they reach sexual maturity; in the second phase, there is a profound restructuring of the brain – often perceived by parents as a kind of mental illness 😉. Among other things, psychological development is about developing emotional independence from parents, achieving acceptance of one’s own body and finding one’s own identity.

Why are stable friendships so important for adolescents?

Identity formation

Friends play a major role in the development of self-esteem and help your child to form their identity. *1

Identity formation is a key aspect of adolescence as your child begins to develop a deeper sense of themselves and their role in the world during this stage. Stable friendships play a crucial role in this process for several reasons.

Social mirroring

Friendships serve as a social mirror that enables your child to understand themselves better. Through interaction with peers, it becomes clear how others perceive them, what their interests, values and personality traits are. This social comparison helps to sharpen their own self-perception.

Self-acceptance and self-esteem

In a supportive friendship environment, your child will experience acceptance and recognition for who they are. This contributes to the development of positive self-esteem. Confirmation and praise from friends strengthens confidence in oneself and helps to overcome negative self-images.

Identification of interests and values

Through stimulation and interaction with friends, your child can explore and develop their interests and values. They learn what is important to them and, ideally, develop ideas about the path they want to take in life.

Autonomy and independence

Painful for many parents, but your child uses their friendships as a platform to break away from you and develop a certain independence. They learn to make decisions, resolve conflicts and stand up for their interests. This promotes the development of independence and autonomy – which some parents often think is too strong.

Cultural and social integration

Friendships offer your child insights into different cultural and social groups. They learn how to behave in different social contexts and what doesn’t go down so well. This allows your child to try things out. This leads to the development of a diverse and comprehensive identity.

The psychologist Erik Erikson emphasized the importance of identity formation in adolescence and identified it as one of the central challenges in this phase of life. Stable friendships offer young people the support and space they need to successfully overcome this challenge. They help them to formulate values, discover skills and interests and define their own identity.

Social support

Stable friendships during adolescence provide an important channel for social support. Your child experiences a variety of challenges, changes and stressors when they are at this pivotal stage in their life. Stable friendships play a significant role in countering these stressors and promoting positive mental health outcomes.

Emotional support, trust and security

Blood brotherhood and vows. Your child needs a safe environment where they can express their feelings and emotions. Without judgment from parents. Friends listen, are empathetic, join forces, laugh and cry together. This creates trust and the basis on which your child can share all their thoughts and worries with their best friend without fear of judgment or betrayal. This emotional support is crucial for navigating the ups and downs of teenage life.

Coping with stress

Of course, adolescence is all about your child’s development and feelings. But for the first time in their lives, your child is also increasingly confronted with external stressors. Academic demands, family changes and social pressure. Stable friendships allow your child to better deal with these stressors and find their own solutions, because friends share their own experiences and help to cope with negative emotions. As a parent, you can have ten pieces of good advice at the ready – you don’t stand a chance against a sideways poke, a sympathetic ear or a pep talk from your best friend.

Mental health

Research has even shown that young people who maintain close friendships have a lower risk of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety disorders. Stable friendships can promote well-being and reduce the risk of mental health problems. *2 I can tell you my own story about this over a cup of tea 😉

The importance of social support from friends has been emphasized in many studies, such as in the work “Friendship Quality and Social Development” published by Thomas J. Berndt in 2002. All studies emphasize how important stable friendships are for adolescents in times of distress, doubt and confusion. As such, they contribute significantly to strengthening the ability to cope successfully with the challenges and changes of this exciting and often difficult period of adolescence, which can have long-term effects on mental health and general well-being in adult life.

Conclusion

If I could reverse my decision from back then – I would do it without hesitation. I wouldn’t have moved so far away or I would have driven my daughter the long way to school every day. A bitter experience for which my daughter paid the price that I would have had to pay.

I hope that my story will sensitize you to how important it can be for your child to have a stable social structure, especially when there is a lot of change on the outside.

This is another reason why UNBRICKED was created, because we want to offer your child the stable school environment they deserve. So that their friendships can last throughout their school years and far beyond, no matter where the family moves to.

*1 Sullivan, H. S. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. Norton.

*2 Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529.

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