By Danny L. Ross, M.Ed., CSC, LPC-S, NCC
Kids will spend more time with other people than their own family and therefore be influenced more by others and different environments. They will have teachers, their school and its culture, neighborhood/city/town and culture, social media and its multiverse of subgroups, and probably the most influential circle of friends. Cultivating a healthy group of friends doesn't have to be complicated; by asking these three questions, you or your children or students will be able to maintain a productive, fruitful, and beneficial social circle.
When evaluating friendships, ask these three questions:
Do they align with your values?
Do these people share a common culture and mentality? If you value honesty, hard work, and integrity, do these new people contribute, or would they distract from that? The adage is correct; we are who we associate with. We don't want to evaluate people to judge them negatively, but life is short, and we only get one, and your friend group most of the time will be what either encourages you to be great, keeps you stuck and stagnant or creates a life of chaos.
Who you spend time with is your choice.
Are they safe?
By safe, I mean physically safe - will they get you into trouble or hurt you?
Mentality safe - are they manipulative, mean-spirited, or value negativity and toxicity?
Emotionally safe - can you be yourself around them, be vulnerable, and is trust there?
Spiritually safe - do they build you on the inside? Do they encourage healthy, positive things or negative, toxic, and harmful things?
Do they better me?
If you invest in this relationship, will you become a better person? When you ask this final question, it's pretty straightforward. If someone doesn't better you and brings the best out of you, then is it good for you to spend a lot of time with them?
Everyone has those "fun," imperfect people in their lives. Still, we aren't talking about just students, coworkers, or acquaintances. We are talking about friends: people we invest our lives, emotions, and energy into. A friend is great, so make sure you ask yourself those three critical questions to ensure the person you're giving yourself to is worthy of the precious gift of your friendship.
Danny L. Ross is a certified/school counselor and a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor in Texas with over 20 years of combined experience in teaching, school counseling, social services, and clinical counseling. He has authored five books related to diversity, education, and grief.
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