As teens begin a new school year, there will be many opportunities, some of them wasted, for making new friends. Hold a discussion on friendship and the ways to meet new friends. Ask teens to share some of the ways they have made new friends. Summarize and record their responses on a board. Then offer the following suggestions to complement their list:

Be yourself. This is probably the most important rule. Think back to when you were a little kid: you didn’t have to be a “phony,” that is, pretend to be someone else in order to make friends. The same holds true today. When other people see you doing things like expressing your own beliefs in a classroom discussion, going out of the way to talk to all classmates (not just a certain few “cool” people), dressing the way you like, etc., they will know much of the real you before even having the chance to talk with you. Their expectations of you will be realistic: “What they see will be what they get.”

Ask someone to do things with you. Most people are “just waiting to be asked”—to play basketball, to study together, to go to a movie, to sit together at lunch. Take some initiative and invite someone you have never talked with to do something with you. The worst that can happen is that the person will say no.

Participate. Try out for a team, audition for a play, join a club, volunteer your time for a service organization. When you participate in something you like or deem worthwhile you are likely to find other people with the same talents and interests. Friends are often drawn together because of these similarities.

Communicate. One side of communication is to be a good listener. Friends listen to each other and carry on productive dialogue. This is different from a “shared monologue,” in which two people trade off telling their stories without really paying attention to the other.

Optional: Invite a teen who has been at the school (or youth group) for less than a year to talk about the transition he or she faced and how he or she went about meeting new friends. Ask the person to respond to the following questions:
  • Could you tell us about someone who greeted you when you first arrived?
  • How were you made to feel welcomed?
  • What is something you learned about “making friends” in your first year at this school (or parish)?
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