Posted Megan Gildin on 9/2/2015 |Featured Columns & Series
“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other gold.”
How many times have you heard this rhyme? It wasn’t until recently that I stopped and actually paid attention to the words, which got me thinking. Is the rhyme saying that our new friends, while still precious, will never be as valuable as our old ones? I have to disagree with that. Having moved cities many times in my young adult life, I’ve needed friends both old and new to be joyful, healthy and confident. Whether it’s a new school year, a new job or moving to a new city, going out of your comfort zone to reach out to unfamiliar faces or enter into new situations takes a lot of self-confidence and is a mindset that I had to develop.
Rewinding to my childhood, I think about those weeks leading up to a new school year. In elementary school, my older brothers walked me to school right at 5 p.m. on a designated night to look at the class lists that had just been posted on the doors to see if my friends were in my class or if I got my favorite teacher. In middle school and high school, there was the big night of comparing schedules with friends to see if you had the same classes, and most importantly, the same lunch period. With each new year comes a mix of emotions. Sometimes you feel lucky because your best friend is in your class, and other times you are anxious or upset because you have been separated from your friends.
I hope that we can teach our girls to embrace every experience as opportunity. I hope girls can simultaneously appreciate the joy that comes from being surrounded by friends and celebrate being placed in situations with people that are new or different. I hope our girls can see the excitement that comes with the opportunity to make new friends, connect and learn from others.
As caregivers, teachers, friends and coaches, we can be intentional in helping our girls embrace and embody this core value. For girls that are already surrounded by friends, we can encourage them to continue to nurture existing positive friendships as well as expand their circle to make friends with peers who might be new or in a class away from their friends. For those girls who feel like the outsider or loner, we can encourage them to take a positive risk and reach out to new people, providing support as they navigate their new scene. Encourage girls to do things like sit at a different table at lunch or try a new program like a book club or Girls on the Run that will allow them to get to know peers they would not normally interact with.
Beyond encouraging our girls, we also need to model this behavior ourselves. It is important to find ways that you can expand your own circle to interact with new people and try new things. Maybe invite a new family at school over for dinner or sign up for a new club. Sharing these experiences with your girls provides them with a positive example as well as a source of empathy as they venture into intentionally embracing differences and finding strength in connectedness.
As I get ready to go back to coaching GOTR, I hope I can encourage my girls to make friends with everyone on the team and interact with different girls each day. I hope I can share some of my own new adventures to show them how I live our core values out in my everyday life. To return to our original “make new friends” jingle, while I am no professional lyricist, I would like to propose a new one. “Make new friends, and keep the old. Both have precious hearts of gold.”
Welcome back to school, to GOTR and to the opportunity to try something new!