I started developing Friday with Friends shortly after the Santa Fe school shooting in 2018. I felt helpless, but I wanted to do something. I had been studying mindfulness for a short while, and I decided to start teaching mindfulness to elementary students. I felt that if I could help kids understand what is going on in their brains, and how to increase the space between stimulus and response, perhaps this would prevent them from one day choosing to end their life or someone else's. Around that time, my girls were 10 and 12, and I was researching the teenage brain and how it changes during the ages of 10-17. I was fascinated with what I learned, and wanted to teach my girls, and their friends, how to navigate these years. The summer before this, I had read "How to Make Friends and Influence People" with my oldest daughter, and I had plans to do the same with my youngest soon. Also around this time, I noticed that my children weren't hanging on my every word as they seemed to have done in the past. But when I was "teaching" something to a group, instead of talking/teaching to them over the dinner table, they were more receptive to what I had to say. So I decided to put together a friendship class, including mindfulness and brain talk. I did this out of my home with a small group of friends for several months, but then I felt called to offer it to anyone who wanted to attend. And thus, Friday with Friends was born.
Friends become very important to young people during the ages of 10-17, as they naturally start to navigate life outside of their homes. At the same time that friends become an integral part of navigating teen life, making friends becomes more difficult. As tweens and teens are finding out who they are, they are noticing and feeling how they are different from friends; similarities and commonalities can be harder to notice. Tweens and teens tend to feel isolated and alone, and often believe that they are the only one who feels this way. At Friday with Friends, we break down that stereotype by discussing the hardships of making friends and feeling connected. Anytime someone mentions a struggle they are dealing with (whether aloud or anonymously through our comment box), I ask the group who else has felt this way. Inevitably, ALL hands raise and a feeling of community and connection arises. Each month, we focus on a friendship skill. Most fo the time, we use Dale Carnegie's steps for Making Friends and Influencing People. We discuss how to use the skill in various situations, and then we take time to practice the skill on a one-to-one basis. Each month, I give a concrete example of how I, as an adult, have used one of these principles. I want each young person to know that these are skills that will serve them for a lifetime.
Community Building with Yoga
I remember clearly when my friend (and yoga teacher), Kathryn Day, taught me that yoga means to yoke, to bring together. Though I had attended many classes before this one, that day was when the idea of yoga on and off the mat really clicked for me. I have been playing with the concept of mind+body+spirit for quite a while, and finding yoga brought it all together for me. For teens and tweens, there are MANY physical, mental, and emotional benefits to practicing yoga. So teaching yoga is a no brainer for me. During Friday with Friends, we have a unique opportunity to yoke the physical asanas of yoga with the spiritual aspect of caring for ourselves, our community, and our world. At each meeting, we discuss the concept of yoga off the mat- how can we take what we've learned and use it to change our world?
Crafts are my buy-in, my hook, my free gift with purchase for these kiddos. Everyone loves crafts! I try to let them decide what types of crafts we will do in future months, so that I can increase excitement and interest. Crafts (and snacks) are often the highlight of the night for the teens and tweens. With something tangible to work on in front of them, they relax into the setting and build deeper connections within the group. I overhear some of the best friendship risks and vulnerable sharing during craft time.
Each month, I try to give you some background information regarding the topics we will be covering. I encourage you to follow-up with your child and chat about what they are learning in Friday with Friends. And I always welcome your feedback or suggestions for future lessons.