I’ll never forget the year my best friend send me to Coventry. There were six of us in our group, and I was completely oblivious of our status of ‘top dogs’ in the classroom, though I can see it now. We occupied the centre of the room, three double desks set together, making everyone else satellites to our clique around the edges. We’d been together right from the start, though Kaye and I were best friends. Both strong personalities, we probably vied for position, although conveniently, I remember her being the most confident. I’m the classic boiled egg – what you see on the outside is not necessarily indicative of the confidence levels underneath. And Kaye knew that.
In our final year of junior school, the catty fallings-out that girls waste so much of their time and energy on began. Each one of our group became a non-friend, one by one, one at a time, singled out for a week, or a month for the silent treatment, the looks, the whispers, and the giggles that weren’t funny. There was nothing wrong with any of us. We were all decent girls, from kind families, clever enough, pretty enough, funny enough. Good enough. And yet we all took our turn. My spell out in the cold lasted six weeks, during which I was off school for week with tonsilitis. On my return, my old-fashioned desk had been stuffed full with sweet wrappers and apple cores, shoved through the hole of the inkwell. I quietly took them to the bin, and carried on enduring my fate.
I remember this time in colour. I remember some of the things that were said, the shiny plastic of the empty sherbet tubes dumped on my exercise books, the time I spent making daisy chains on my own during my lunch break. I remember very clearly my teacher, Mrs Wade, consoling me in the stock room as I let my tears out. I have a hollow ache in the pit of my stomach even now, nearly forty years later, as I think about these events. It’s bloody tough growing up.
What I want most for my children is to be able to weather such incidents without feeling that ache, and without it haunting their self-confidence when they’re adults. It took me a long time to believe I was as good as anyone else, and I want to equip them with the tools to develop the resilience they need to weather the blows that will come from others, or from events in their lives.
Some of that starts with learning to identify who really is a good friend, what a good friend looks like, and if they themselves are being good friends. So I was really pleased to see that Becky Goddard-Hill, blogger from Emotionally Healthy Kids has launched a set of FINK conversation cards to support children with their friendships. The cards are designed to prompt conversations that will encourage children to consider how to make new friends, and how to solve problems within friendships. They contain powerful and thought-provoking questions that can be used in schools or at home to help children decide how they want to handle the inevitable friendship dilemmas that everyone faces.
I’m really proud of how my children approach difficult situations with their friends, but I can really see how these cards will make them think more objectively about what they want from their friendships, and will help them develop the resilience they need to feel confident now, and to make healthy relationship choices later on in their lives.
You can get your own set of Healthy Friendship cards here for £13.50.