What does it take to make a good friend?
“Kindness!” One of our Brownies finds the word “kindness” written on a slip of paper and puts it into the bowl. “A good friend is definitely kind,” she says.
“And helpful!” another Brownie chimes in, putting the word “helpful” into the bowl next.
The next Brownie puts her finger on the word “controlling”. “I don’t think a good friend is controlling,” she asserts, “or pushy,” she adds, pointing to that word. “Those words don’t go in the bowl.”
“But a good friend is encouraging,” says the last Brownie in the patrol. “That can go in our recipe.”
The Brownies are sitting in their patrols, sorting words. Kind, helpful, encouraging. These words describe a good friend. Pushy and controlling? Those don’t. The girls are writing recipes, and words are their ingredients. A recipe for what? For a good friend. At this meeting, we’re learning about healthy and unhealthy friendships. What does it take to make a healthy friendship? Better look in the bowl and see which ingredients made it in.
Girls have friends at school, in the neighbourhood and in Guiding. Knowing the difference between healthy and unhealthy friendships can help them avoid harmful situations and build positive connections with their peers.
Here are some of the activities that we used to explore healthy friendships. We did these activities with Brownies, but girls of all ages need to know what distinguishes healthy and unhealthy friendships. Most of these activities are modified from the Girls Empower Challenge and can be used with other branches.
- Find out what a good friend looks like. Divide the girls into small groups and have each group trace one girl, lying down on a large piece of paper. Together, the girls draw attributes of a good friend on this figure and write their explanation: “A good friend has hands for helping.” “A good friend has eyes that are looking out for you.” “A good friend has a big heart.”
- Sing “Make New Friends” and discuss the lyrics. When we sing, “One is silver but the other’s gold,” what do we mean? What do we mean when we sing, “A circle is round, it has no end, That’s how long I want to be your friend”?
- Have a healthy friendship relay race: Have the girls line up in groups at one end of the room, and place a set of statements about friendships at the other end of the room. They crab walk (or move another way) to get to the far side of the room, pick up one statement at a time and bring it back to their team. When all the statements have been collected, the teams categorize the statements as describing a “healthy friendship” or an “unhealthy friendship.” Statements might include, “I am afraid my friend will get mad if I say or do the wrong thing,” or “I feel safe when I am with my friend.” Go through the statements afterwards with the whole unit.
- Think about what it feels like to be a good friend, and to make a new friend. Have the girls sit with their eyes closed while you ask them to imagine being at a new school on the first day of the year, sitting quietly through class then going outside for recess alone. Ask them how they feel when another student comes over to them and asks them to play. They might feel excited, valued, welcomed or amazing, as our Brownies said.
- Write a recipe for a healthy friendship. In small groups, have girls sort words into two categories: healthy and unhealthy friendships. When they have sorted the words, all the “healthy friendship” words are laid out on the floor and the girls used these to help them write their “Recipe for a Good Friend” on a recipe card. Make sure the girls know that they can use other words if they like, as well as the ones that they have sorted.
So what does it take to make a healthy friendship? It’s different for everyone. It might take 2 cups of fun, 10 1/2 cups of trust, a spoonful of inspiration, a sprinkling of listening and understanding, 3 cups of hope and 100 cups of respect, as one Brownie wrote on her recipe card. Oh, and a smile on top, too!
What does it take to make a girl who recognizes the difference between healthy friendships and unhealthy friendships? It takes a lot of things. And one of those things might be the opportunity to think about this difference with her peers in a safe space, like Guiding.
By guest blogger Melissa. Melissa is a Queen’s University student and a Guider with the 5th Ottawa Brownies, 17th Kingston Guides, 17th Kingston Pathfinders. Melissa has also written previous posts for Girl Guides of Canada’s blog: Brownies on Ice, Guiding Parliament, A Silent Meeting, Using Children’s Books in Meetings, It’s Not a Box!, One Plus One Equals Brownie Math, The World Girls Want for the(ir) Future, Young Women’s World Forum 2011: Wrap-up from Switzerland. She has also reviewed several books from our adult book club: Persuasion, Everything We Ever Wanted, and Flight Behaviour.
It’s Mental Health Week! Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) Mental Health Week, May 6-12, 2013, is an annual national event that takes place during the first week in May to encourage people from all walks of life to learn, talk, reflect and engage with others on all issues relating to mental health. Visit www.mentalhealthweek.ca for more information.