Supporting Healthy Friendships Newsletter
Why are friendships important?
Long-lasting friendships are important to all of us. Most of us can name friends who we can -
- talk to,
- have fun with, and
- feel supported by.
Friends are there for each other, hopefully, for a long time. Without a network of friends, a person can feel depressed and lonely.
As support staff, you may develop a close relationship with someone you support. It is important to remember that over time, your job can change. At some point, you may no longer be there for that person.
An important part of your job is to help the individuals you support make friendships that will last over time. This helps people lead much fuller and more enjoyable lives. When they have friends and family in their lives, everyone wins!
What is a healthy friendship?
The first thing to do to help an individual make friends is to talk about what a healthy friendship looks like.
A true friend doesn’t come and go…
They listen, and
They are there for you during
ups and downs!
Talk about what a real friend looks, sounds, and acts like. For example, friends talk to, and listen to each other. They also show sympathy and understanding when needed. In addition, they say nice things to each other. All of these things serve to build trust and strengthen a friendship.
Help the individual understand what a healthy friendship means. It usually means feeling good, feeling safe, and feeling supported. In any friendship, there may be times when there are disagreements. In a healthy friendship, people talk and work things out.
Ongoing feelings of sadness, anger, or fear may be a sign of an unhealthy friendship. Make sure individuals know where to go and who to talk to when they have these feelings.
What can you do to help an individual you support meet others?
There is no set way for starting a friendship. Friendships usually grow out of shared activities and interests. Here are some ideas about how to help an individual meet people who may become friends.
1. Talk to the individual you support about things they like to do. Use the worksheet What Do I Like to Do? to help get ideas. Work together to choose one or two interests or favorite activities.
2. Connect these choices to opportunities for meeting new people and making friends. For example, someone may have an interest in gardening. Does the local nursery have a gardening class?
3. Explore your community together. Check out local civic groups, community colleges, adult schools or libraries for activities that match the person’s interests.
4. Use your community connections. Set aside time at staff meetings to brainstorm all of the community connections you and your co-workers have. One might match the individual’s interest and lead to an opportunity for new friendships.
5. Offer encouragement and support for attending an activity, especially the first few times. You may need to provide or arrange for transportation. You may also need to help an individual learn how to make friends.
What are some tips on how to make friends?
Many people are shy or unsure of how to approach a new person. They lack confidence because they don’t know what to do or say. You can help by sharing and role-playing these simple tips for meeting people.
When a person first meets someone new, they should approach the person in a friendly way. If they find out they both like the same thing, they can talk more about it. Maybe there is an opportunity for them to get together and go out for lunch or coffee. That will give them an opportunity to get to know each other better.
As a support staff, you can help an individual build their confidence. Before you know it, they will have a new friend! You may need to continue to provide some support to help the friendship grow over time.
More Resources about Friendships
You will find some additional materials on the SafetyNet website. These tip sheets will help you in your work with individuals who need support in developing friendships and community connections: