We are a social species. Humans have strong social ties, both with family members and beyond. All throughout our lives we initiate and maintain connections with others. We call these associations friendship and they are important to us in many ways.
I recently was on Cape Cod, attending a conference, and I had the opportunity to get together with two old friends from college. We realized that we had known each other for over 40 years! As the pictures show, our physical appearance has changed over the years. But to us, we are the same people we always were.
I recently spent a week with my friend Bill (in the middle) while he was having surgery in Boston. But it was great to reconnect now that he is has recovered from that surgery.
The three of us have maintained our friendship through the years, although we live several thousand miles away from each other. A year or two may go by when we don’t get together. But then, when we do, it seems like we just saw each other yesterday.
That’s a great feeling. Old friends know us in a way that nobody else does. They know what has changed in us and what has stayed the same. They remind us of whom we really are. They are part of our history. These ties are timeless, while our body is definitely not!
Even though all of us know the importance of family, it is also very important to nurture friendships throughout life. We start forming friendships as young children, find playmates, buddies, and hopefully, individuals that are soul mates.
Young children find friends with their parent’s assistance, by arranging play dates with school chums. It’s great when kids have same age buddies in the neighborhood! They can play for hours together. In later grades, youngsters have to take the initiative to invite school friends over. Sports teams and activities can be a source of friendships for children.
Middle school can shake up a kid’s friendship circle. It can be a rough time as children may go through several friendship groups within one year. It can also be a lonely time too. Elementary school camaraderie is often based on proximity. In middle school, it is necessary to have more in common.
During adolescence, teens can develop enduring relationships as well as go through a wide range of friendship circles. Often, teens hang out in groups based on superficial interests—style of clothing, music interests, or sports interests. But it is also possible to develop deep connections. Adolescence is a developmentally rich period, and healthy friendships can help youngsters make a smoother transition to adulthood.
Connections made in college can also last a lifetime. My mother has several friends that she met in college. They are fast friends 70 years later! Young adulthood is also a time that adults develop strong ties with others.
During these times, adults can go through a process of shedding friendships—choosing to let go of some people that they have outgrown and strengthening ties with friends that share a common ground. This can be a painful process. Friends made in young adulthood are a reference point for change.
Adults often connect with new people through their children’s parents. Parents with young families form easy connections with other parents with young kids. These ties may come to an end when kids get older or when their friends change. But some of these relationships endure.
It can be harder for adults in mid-life to form new friendships, unless they have access to broad group of adults at work or through community involvements. Lack of proximity of potential friends can be a problem. Developing close involvements during this phase of life can be a challenge. It requires an active approach and taking initiative.
Share your “old friend” experiences with the Family Talk community!