Valuing close friends and other friends
Episode 15 – Evie, Age 9: What is a close friend?
Think About It Questions
- Why do you think it’s important to enjoy casual friends as well as close friends?
- Can you think of someone who is not a close friend but still makes your life more enjoyable? Who is that, and how do they add to your life?
- Can you think of someone who started out as a casual friend and became a close friend of yours over time? How did that happen?
- How about the reverse? Have you ever known someone who used to be a close friend of yours, and then you grew apart? What happened?
- What do you think Dr. Friendtastic meant when she said, “The best way to get closeness is to give it”?
Hi! I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.
Here’s today’s question:
I’m Evie. I’m 9, and my question is: How do you know if you're close with someone or not?
Hi, Evie! Thanks for sending in your question. It raises a very interesting topic, which is: What do we mean by closeness in a friendship?
When I think about closeness, or intimacy, I think about being “special” to another person. I think about sharing our private thoughts and feelings, and having a sense of being understood, cared for, appreciated, and even loved.
In our most intimate friendships, we can feel like we have a soul mate. We only get about three of those in our whole lives, and I’m completely making up that number. But my point is, that kind of deep intimacy is rare. That’s what makes it special.
If you think about friendships on a staircase of increasing intimacy, a soulmate would be at the top of the staircase. At the bottom of the staircase, the first step might be a bus stop friend. This could be someone who you see regularly and say hi to. You might chat a bit, but you don’t know each other that well.
A step or two above that might be a math class friend. This could be someone you like and sit next to and even help each other with homework sometimes.
A few steps above that might be a soccer-team friend. This could be someone you enjoy playing with and you cheer each other on, celebrating the victories together and comforting each other when the game doesn’t go well. You have that connection from running and sweating together and pursuing your shared goals of improving your skills and winning as a team.
And so on. And so on. There are so many different kinds of friends! And they can all be good!
Each level of the friendship intimacy staircase matters because these friends enrich our lives. Math class is easier and more fun if we have a buddy to share it with!
Maybe those friendships on the lower steps will deepen over time, as you share more and get to know each other better, or maybe they’ll stay right where they are. And that’s absolutely fine. We can enjoy and appreciate all levels of friendship closeness, whether or not we happen to have a soulmate at that time.
So, back to your question: How do you know if you’re close with someone or not? I wouldn’t think of it as an either/or: Either I’m close to that person, or I’m not.
Instead, focus on the ways you are or would like to be close to someone. What do you like to do together? What do you know about each other? How do you show each other you care?
And remember, the best way to get closeness is to give it.
This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and click on the podcast tab to see how to submit your question.