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Middle School Lesson on Boundaries: Circle of Friends
When most people think back on their middle school years, they tend to remember it being full of drama. Middle school is full of drama because friendships/relationships really start to change and grow throughout that time period. Key interpersonal skills and conflict resolution skills are developed in middle school. The Circle of Friends Activity is the perfect activity for talking to students about middle school friendships/relationships.
To save you some time, I’ve made a Circle of Friends worksheet for you (click button below). I also provide directions and discussion prompts to help make this exercise easier for you. I recommend printing the directions/prompts on one side and then the worksheet on the other side. Then laminate the worksheet so you can easily reuse it when needed. Click the button below to be taken directly to my TPT store. If you’re not familiar with TPT(Teacher Pay Teachers), it’s a safe website where educators buy/sell their products.
What is the Circle of Friends Activity?
The Circle of Friends Activity helps students learn about the different types of relationships in their lives. It helps them categorize their friendships and identify the differences between these categories. Understanding the different types of friendships can help students determine when a situation should either be ignore or resolved; depending on the type of relationship the students have together.
Here’s a visual of the Circle of Friends:
I begin the activity by asking the students to write down 5-10 names and place them in the appropriate circle/ring. I might spend a few minutes asking the student about their “close friends” ring. What makes these students “close friends”? How long have these students been in your “close friend” ring? I tend to focus on the “close friends” circle because that should be a students greatest support system (as far as friendships go).
Once the student’s worksheet is filled out with 5-10 names, then we move on to discussing the current drama/situation.
Drama in the Outer Rings
If the drama involved an individual in an outer ring, then we need to find a way to move past it. The people in our outer rings don’t hold as much importance/value in our life, so we should try to ignore the negativity associated with these people.
Here’s a example of a discussion I had with a student involving drama in the outer rings.
Valerie: “Linda in my science class called me annoying”.
Counselor: “I’m curious before we talk more about what she said, where is Linda in your circle of friends? And what made you place her in that circle?
Valerie: “Well she’s in my acquaintance circle because I don’t really know her very well.”
Counselor: “Well if you don’t know Linda, then she probably doesn’t know you either. Which means she doesn’t know if you’re annoying or not. When people say hurtful comments like that, we can’t take it to heart. People say hurtful things sometimes. I don’t know why but it happens and we can’t control them. We can only control how we respond to their comments. The real question is why do you care what an acquaintance thinks? Do your close friends think your annoying?”
Valerie: “No, they think I’m funny.”
Counselor: “Then why are we giving more value to the opinion of this acquaintance than your close friends?”
Sometimes I continue the conversation on to discuss how the situation would feel different if a close friend had said the hurtful comment instead of someone in an outer ring. Giving students that comparison (outer ring vs inner ring actions) can help put things into perspective for them.
It’s easy to tell kids to ignore the negativity in their outer rings, but it can be hard move forward sometimes. If the student struggles ignoring the negativity, then I give them the hot coal analogy. Holding onto pain/anger is like holding onto a hot coal. It burns our hand but it doesn’t effect the other person. They don’t care if we’re still upset/angry, the only person hurt by holding onto the coal is ourselves.
Drama in the Inner Rings
When there’s drama in the inner rings, now that’s some serious drama that we need to discuss. When dealing with drama in the inner rings, I begin by helping the student determine if this relationship is still a healthy friendship. Over time some relationships can become unhealthy and it might be time to consider moving this friendship to an outer ring. We discuss how we can move this relationship to an outer ring and what they’d need to be able to move this individual back into an inner ring.
If the relationship is still a healthy friendship, then we begin discussing conflict resolution ideas. Middle school students struggle with conflict resolution, but it’s a very important skill for them to learn. We spend a lot of time trying to find a realistic conflict resolution for the individuals involved. I listen to the student’s ideas, make suggestions, and guide the student into an action plan they feel comfortable following.
I then follow up with the student to praise their efforts and determine if more action is necessary. Sometimes it might take multiple “repair attempts” before a relationship is ready to move forward and that’s okay. We might even discuss the importance of time when healing wounds and repairing trust within a relationship. All of these skills are great life lessons for students to learn. They’re not always pleasant lessons, but they are life lessons that will help them even in adulthood.
Here are some other topics that frequently come up as we’re doing the Circle of Friends Activity:
When Students Only Have a Few Close Friends
A lot of students will get upset when they only have 1-2 names in the “close friends” group. When this happens I stop the activity and take a moment to talk about quality versus quantity in friendships. I also let them know that’s it’s normal to have only a few people in our “close friends” group (especially for introverts). I might even take a few minutes to talk about introverts versus extroverts, if I feel that would be helpful for the student.
Moving Friends from Ring to Ring
Over time friendships change. Sometimes a friend might move from an inner ring to an outer ring and that can be painful. When do you think a friend might move from an inner ring to an outer ring? Has this ever happened to you? If so how did you handle it? What advice would you give someone who’s dealing with this?
There are other times, when a friend moves from an outer ring to an inner ring. Has this ever happened to you? How did you help that relationship grow into something more? How do we make more “close friends”? Do we need to make more “close friends”?
I hope you enjoy this activity and find a way to make it your own! I’d love to hear ways you’ve used this activity in the comments below, we’re here to share and learn y’all!