Friendship in adolescence and why at Agora International School Andorra we believe it is so important
Friendship is a fundamental value at any stage of life and at all ages, but in adolescence, friends play a very important role in maturity development.
“Each new friend we win in the race of life perfects and enriches us even more by what he discovers of ourselves than by what he gives us of himself”, said Miguel de Unamuno, and the truth is that friends enrich us, make us feel more complete and, if they are friendships that are well understood and carried out, help us to be better people.
“Friendship should be encouraged from an early age, when selfish and egocentric behaviour is common”, recommends Juan Sánchez Muliterno, president of the World Association of Early Childhood Educators. From that moment on, the child’s development begins to be modelled, the environment also influences him and he begins to take actions in favour of others and it is when “the initial egocentrism gives way to friendly behaviour and this is how he meets his first friends”, assures this expert.
Early childhood friends are very important in the development of socialisation and shape the way children communicate and relate to their peers. When they reach adolescence, the importance of friends is even greater: adolescents move from having their parents as their main point of reference to having their friends take that place.
Why is friendship so important in adolescence?
Adolescents need to cultivate friendships and they need those bonds to be created with their peers, i.e. parents can have a very good relationship and trust-based communication with their children, but adolescents need friends their own age and they also need parents to set an example, to be able to set limits and to take on the role of educators: “I think you can have a good friendship with your child as a parent, but being a parent encompasses many things. Also, the concept of friendship is confused because I, as a good friend of someone, if I see that something they are doing is hurting them, I will tell them, I will not allow it. And being a friend to my son can also be that, telling him that he is on the wrong track and guiding him. Moreover, we also have to be a parent during the time when our children need references where they can see themselves reflected, but if we parents are incapable of setting rules for ourselves, how can we set them for them? And friendship with a child is for when they earn it”, maintains Pedro García Aguado, advisor and mediator, expert in adolescent misbehaviour and in the prevention and treatment of addictive behaviour, also known for being a former water polo player and presenter of the television programme “Hermano Mayor”.
As children enter adolescence, they generally begin to spend more time with their friends and less with their parents, and this evolution is normal, as well as being positive for their development. Friends become a fundamental pillar for adolescents and this is due to the fact that friendship at this stage fulfils the following functions:
- Affective development: “Friends are necessary for joy as well as for sorrow,” said author and lecturer Samuel Paterson. In adolescence, friendship is vital for emotional development. Adolescents face many cognitive, physical, emotional, social, moral and other changes. Adolescence is a very turbulent time and friends are the people who are going through the same things they are, so they feel that they are the ones who can best understand them. They look to their friends to be able to freely communicate their doubts, concerns, fears, worries and desires without feeling judged and feeling understood and accompanied. They speak the same language and share the same vital moment, so the bond is very strong.
- Facing social changes: adolescence is the end of childhood and the beginning of the path towards adulthood. At this time of life, there are also very important social changes, such as the transition to high school, the appearance of certain responsibilities, the first love relationships or partnerships, etc. Faced with all these important changes, adolescents seek understanding, empathy and affinity among their peer group.
- Search for one’s own identity: adolescence is when the search for one’s own identity begins most strongly. This search will continue into adulthood, but it is when we are adolescents that we search for who we are outside the family nucleus and friends are a fundamental figure in this process.
- Self-esteem reinforcement: friendship is vital in adolescence for the reinforcement of self-esteem. Adolescents seek to feel loved, supported and accepted by their peer group. There is a strong need to satisfy the feeling of belonging.
- Defining one’s own values: the child will choose friends with traits, values, attitudes or ideas very similar to his or her own, in this way also assimilates, and establishes his or her own values and personality.
- Trust and understanding: In adolescence, children begin to understand and develop more values such as trust. They seek and offer understanding among their peers and the feeling of loyalty in adolescent friendships is very strong.
However, be aware that friends can also sometimes be a source of pressure and the need to feel accepted can lead adolescents to do things they do not feel, want or approve of. For adolescents to learn to set their own limits, they need to be aware of and familiar with what limits are. For them to set limits, parents and educators must also set them: “Excessive permissiveness and excessive overprotection are worrying. As we don’t want them to suffer we give them everything they ask for, we make them live in Walt Disney when real life is The Walking Dead. We deceive them and then they come face to face with reality. We must learn to tell them NO and they must learn to be frustrated”, argues teacher, family counsellor and lecturer Francisco Castaño.
Multicultural friendship at Agora International School Andorra
In our school, students have the opportunity to interact and live with students of different nationalities in a natural environment of great environmental and scenic value, which allows them to be more open-minded, tolerant and multicultural.
Not only during classes and in the day-to-day running of the school do pupils establish and work on bonds of companionship and friendship, but at weekends, they also have the opportunity to stay in the residence to share directed study sessions, sports activities and cultural outings, spending more time with their friends and enriching their relationships.
Through sport, a very important pillar in our school, students also make friends and deepen values such as solidarity, trust and teamwork.