Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Friend Drama

Details of friend drama are constantly being shared in my household. Sometimes it's amusing, sometimes it's annoying and sometimes it's heart-wrenching. Our kids find no comfort in hearing that this drama is age-appropriate for tween and teenage girls. They care that the drama affects the social balance they seek in their lives and they care when it makes them feel insecure. Or more insecure - because it's the rarest of tween or teen girls who feels tremendously secure. The message that someone might be a real friend even if they're not treating you well at the moment or that even nice girls do mean things are tough messages for kids to swallow. But insecurity can alter one's universe, can't it? For parents, it's often more difficult to accept that even one of our own "nice" kids is capable of making someone else feel bad but we're fools if we don't. The way kids react to friend  drama says a lot about them and probably offers some hints for dealing with the situation. While every child is different, I think it's always important to find that balance between insensitivity and hypersensitivity - it sounds obvious but it's not always a clear goal, which may be a mistake. When we tell our children they're being too sensitive, we need to explain what that means. When we tell them to develop a thicker skin, we may be inadvertently pushing them to the other extreme and when they're there, they may well become the perpetrators. At the end of the day, kids need to grow up recognizing they're part of a world that's bigger than them and they need to learn to function cooperatively and collaboratively in the world. To do so successfully, requires a balanced degree of sympathy and even empathy. It's probably safe to say that we all know adults who never learned this lesson all that well - don't we need to do what we can to ensure that our kids do so much better?!

5-10 year-olds will delight in the dramatic antics of friends Bink & Gollie in Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee's tales of friendship, illustrated by Tony Fucile.  These polar opposite best friends have strong personalities and genuine fondness and loyalty for one another. On a personal note, I love the fact that one is tall and the other is tiny. I was the tall girl growing up and one of my best friends was tiny. The same is true for each of my daughters. We're all convinced that we've chosen these friends and they've chosen us for something far more profound than size but who knows, maybe size is a factor!

For a slightly more sophisticated read, kids 9-14 who are a little tired of human friends may enjoy The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson. The true story is that in the 1920s, 58 dolls were sent as ambassadors of friendship from the children of Japan to the children of the United States. This is the fictionalized story of one of them, Miss Kanagawa.The Depression-era story follows the doll as she is sent around the country. It is a story about the doll as well as each of the girls whose lives she touches. I love historical fiction that focuses on a little known historical fact or point in time that is given a new life. This tale of global friendship is a winner.

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