Friendship Groups, Cliques, & Fitting in

Article Glossary

Glossary of Terms

At URSTRONG, we believe it’s important to use kids’ language for kids’ problems. That’s why we have our very own, unique language of friendship. Here are some important terms that children, parents, and teachers learn in our program.

Friendship Fire®: Any situation between you and a friend that results in negative feelings.

Mean-on-Purpose: When someone is intentionally unkind to someone else.

Quick Comeback: A very short word or phrase that is used when someone is Mean-on-Purpose. Quick Comebacks are designed to let the other person know that you heard/saw what they did and you’re not okay with it.

Friend-o-meter: A visual tool that assesses the health of friendships, ranging from the healthy zone to the unhealthy zone.

Friend-o-cycle: The normal cycle in a friendship that brings the friendship back to the healthy zone after experiencing a Friendship Fire. The phases of the Friend-o-cycle are: Healthy Friendship – Fire – Confront the issue – Talk-it-Out – Forgive & Forget – Closer & Stronger – Healthy Friendship…

4 Friendship Facts: A set of four facts that help us have realistic expectations in our friendships so we understand what is normal.

  1. No friendship (relationship) is perfect.
  2. Every friendship is different.
  3. Trust & Respect are the two most important qualities of a friendship.
  4. Friendships change…and that’s okay.

Red Shirt Girl and Striped Shirt Boy: Two characters that remind us about the importance of body language.

Friendship Ninja: A Friendship Ninja is someone who surrounds themselves with friends in the healthy zone of the Friend-o-meter. A Friendship Ninja is kind and friendly to everyone. A Friendship Ninja understands the 4 Friendship Facts and puts out their Friendship Fires when they ignite. A Friendship Ninja stands up for themselves and their friends. A Friendship Ninja makes new friends and understands that friendships change…and that’s okay. Above all else, a Friendship Ninja is someone you want to be friends with because they’re true to who they are!

Between Taylor Swift’s #SQUADGOALS & endless reminders to “Find Your Tribe”, it is no wonder we’re often asked about friendship groups or cliques.

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What if there’s someone in my group that isn’t very nice to me?

Can I be in more than one group?

What if my group of friends don’t get along with another group?

I don’t feel like I fit in with my group and I want to switch groups!

This pack-like mentality is very common with kids who are striving to find their way in this world, but it’s not always the healthiest approach. Friend groups and cliques can be exclusive and alienating. Stereotypes emerge, peer pressure is at its worst, and kids start to mold to fit the group’s reputation and rules.

Being part of a group, however, can feel good. Kids truly fear social isolation and sometimes make poor choices in their friendships so as to not be seen to be alone. Over the years, countless kids have told us they would rather have a bad friend than no friend at all. Being with a group can feel safe.

In our workshops with students, we talk to them about the difference between healthy and unhealthy friendship groups using the Friend-o-meter. Some friendship groups feel good and some do not and we discuss the qualities of a healthy friendship group.

To support children to try and break down these invisible walls that exist in their friendships, here are 3 important conversations to have with them:

  • Discuss the difference between “fitting in” versus “belonging”, which Dr Brené Brown explores in her research on vulnerability and shame. Our goal is to help children feel that vital sense of belonging. We can feel we belong, even when we’re alone. We can feel we belong, even if we don’t get invited to every birthday party. We can feel we belong, even if our friend is hanging out with another friend. How are you fostering that sense of belonging in your students or your child? We need to reinforce Friendship Fact #3: Trust & respect are the two most important qualities in a friendship and help build that capacity for self-compassion and self-worth in every child.
  • Encourage your students or child to think about each friendship individually. Group dynamics are tricky and the reality is that ‘group mentality’ reinforces unhealthy thinking patterns like stereotyping and discrimination. We need to teach children to look at people as individuals; they are more than the sum of their parts. Reinforce Friendship Fact #2Every friendship is different and encourage your students or child to focus on what works in each one of their individual friendships.
  • Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Love Warrior and creator of Momastery, recently posted a story on Instagram encouraging people to switch to horseshoes instead of circles when they’re standing with a group. A circle is closed off and doesn’t leave room for people to join, while a horseshoe is welcoming. We talk to kids a lot about the messages they’re sending with their body language. What message is the group sending when it stands in a circle? A horseshoe says, “We’ve got room for more!”

If our children are going to form groups, which they will, let’s give them the tools they need to understand they are individuals (and so are their friends) who always belong…even when they’re alone.

Written by Dana Kerford
Friendship Expert and Founder of URSTRONG