Find Your Girl Squad: 10 top tips for coping with changing friendships

Published on: 24 February 2020 Author: Dr Angharad Rudkin & Ruth Fitzgerald

Find Your Girl Squad is a brand new book from clinical psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin and children's author Ruth Fitzgerald - illustrated by Sarah Jennings - that aims to support girls through the challenges of making and keeping friends.

We asked them to share their ten top tips for dealing with changing friendships...

The front cover of Find Your Girl Squad

Whether it's starting a new school, moving to a new town or a friend moving away, at some point we all have to deal with changing friendships. Here are some of our top tips for managing those tough times...

1. Accept that life is all about change

Imagine if everything in life stayed the same. Every day you wore the same clothes and had the same lunch, lessons and conversations. Life would be unbearably DULL. Fortunately, life isn't like that. Life is full of change and challenge - not always enjoyable and not always easy, but always interesting.

2. Understand that often we can't stop things changing, even if we want to

If your family is moving 200 miles away, and you don't have access to a private jet, you are going to have to change school. Fighting against the change, sulking, crying and banging things might make you feel better for a while, but at some point you'll need to face up to things with a better strategy.

3. Accept your feelings

It's perfectly normal to feel hurt, sad or cross when we lose friends or feel uncertain about the future. Be kind to yourself. Talk to yourself in a gentle way, like a nice Nanna: 'Don't worry. You'll get through this. You're doing great.' Be proud of the way you're managing this difficult time.

Young people hugging

Illustration: Erika Meza

4. Look for the positives

Are there things that are good about the change? If you are moving to a new school it might have a brilliant art studio or an excellent football team. If your friend is moving away, you can still keep in touch through messaging, email and Facetime - think of all the interesting new gossip you'll have to tell her. And you can send each other letters, cards, pics and little gifts - it could be fun!

5. Treat change as an opportunity

This is your chance to make new friends. Are there other people you like, but never really had time to hang out with? Is there a lunchtime club or sports team you haven't got around to trying? Now's a great time to ask if you can join them.

6. Talk to your brain!

When we do something new, like starting a new school, it can sometimes feel like our brains are working against us by filling up with scary thoughts and crazy 'what ifs..?'

What if I get lost and never find my way out of school again? What if my mum's bought the wrong colour uniform? What if I accidentally throw my lunch over the headteacher?

Even though we know these things are very unlikely, we feel scared, shaky and want to run and hide. This is our brain's way of reacting to what it sees as a threatening situation. Thank your brain for trying to keep you safe but remind it that this is just a day at school and not a dangerous mission! Relax. Smile. Yes, there might be some awkward moments in the first few days, but you can cope.

A girl entering a cave with a flaming torch

Illustration: Erika Meza

7. Breathe

When we worry, we take quick, shallow breaths. This makes us feel even more wobbly. Before you speak to someone new, or walk into the lunch hall by yourself, take a big breath and let it out slowly. Notice your shoulders relax and your whole body slow down. Then you're ready to face the challenge.

8. Impress less

When we want to impress new friends, we can sometimes concentrate too much on how we are acting. We get 'self-conscious' and start thinking that we sound silly or look weird. Don't worry! Focus your thoughts on the people around you instead. If you are interested in them, you'll forget about yourself, and the more natural and friendly you are, the more relaxed people will feel around you.

9. Talk it out

Don't forget to share your feelings. Talk to the adults around you (they have had years of experience!) and your siblings and friends. Many of them may have been through similar challenges and can support you.

10. Above all, know that any unhappy times will pass

As we said at the start, everything changes and that includes the miserable stuff. If you are finding things tough right now, hang on in there and things will get better. You will have good times and feel happy again soon!

Find Your Girl Squad is out now, published by Wren & Rook.

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