How to Teach Your Kids About Finding Real Friends

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Get your Cotton Candy friends back!

I have gotten a lot of great feedback about my post on Cotton Candy friends and I wanted to write the follow up.  Please do take a moment to read about the characteristics of cotton candy friends.

Cotton Candy friending is a phenomenon among the Facebook generation where the more friends you have the better and soon you realize that you have 1276 friends on MySpace, but no one to hand out in real life.  I find that we are truly hungry for real relationships, because the social network ‘friend’ does not sustain us.

So, how can we get Cotton Candy friends back to being real dessert…or maybe even a meal, something long lasting and nutritious for your soul.  Talk to your teens about friendship and that:

1) It Can Take 50 Years

When I got home from college and realized that I had no ‘friends’ despite my 1300+ friends on Facebook, my mom told me that she is (  ) years-old and it has taken her that many years to find just two best friends–her husband and her one best girlfriend.  This reminded me that it takes a lifetime to build friends.

2) Sometimes One Friend Equal One Thousand Cotton Candy Friends

Sometimes I feel bad that I do not have a ‘group’ of girlfriends like I did in High School or college.  When I feel lonely I might skim down my friends newsfeeds on Facebook or look at their recent updates for an hour or two.  Afterwards, I still felt lonely.  Yet, when I talk to my friend (Margo, whom this post is dedicated to) for even twenty minutes I feel so much more fulfilled.  One great friend, is worth way more than any amount of social network friends.

3) What Does it Mean to Know Someone?

I have people whom I follow on Twitter and I know what they had for breakfast yesterday and how fast they can run the mile.  I do not know their last names, what they are afraid of, or if they are happy right now.  I think sometimes teens get confused with the idea of ‘knowing’ someone.  Just because you get ten updates from someone you know per day, does not necessarily mean they are a ‘friend.’

4) Would you have someone to call if…

A few months ago my grandfather died. I had very few people to call and vent.  Thank goodness I do have some true friends, but when I happened to mention it to a friend from Facebook, it was awkward.  She didn’t know what to say because she didn’t really know me other than what I usually eat for breakfast.  Ask your teen if they would have someone to call if something sad happened to them.

5) Know the Difference

it is OK to have Cotton Candy friends, in fact they can often provide great procrastination distractions and make you appreciate your real friends.  Just make sure they know the difference.  When you asked your teen if they would have someone to call if something sad happened to them, also ask them who they wouldn’t call—this can tell you just as much.

6) Different Types of Friends

On that same note from above, I have friends I go shopping with, some I talk to about work, some I talk to about my boyfriend, and some I go to the gym with.  This is OK!  When I speak to teen girls and boys I explain to them that this is ok to have different friends for different interests.  It feels like a lot of pressure to have to have one BEST BEST BEST FRIEND FOREVER, not everyone has this all the time.

7) Friends and Trust

I spoke above about really knowing if people you are connected with on social networks are your friends.  There can be a false sense of security with an internet buddy or Myspace connection.  I think teens need to be really aware of what they put on their newsfeeds for friends to see, they also need to be careful what they tell their ‘friends.’  Again, knowing who they would not call if they were sad are the same people they should not be telling personal information to.

Overall, talk to your kids about the idea of Cotton Candy friends.  Maybe you are on Facebook and found out too much information on someone’s news feed? Maybe you now have some Cotton Candy friends?  Print out this article or the Cotton Candy article and talk to them about it!

This post is dedicated to Margo Aaron who has always been a true friend.

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4 thoughts on “How to Teach Your Kids About Finding Real Friends”

  1. Great insight Vanessa!
    I’m sure glad to know this is not happening just to my kids. Friendships these days are not only “Fake-book” friends, but kids seem to also lack the emotional availability/trust needed for strong bonding.
    I will be posting a blog about this generation’s focus on competition and success which seems to be one reason for the lack of trust in teen friendships these days.

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