Friendships develop and grow over time. There are lots of different ways to visualize this concept for kids, but I particularly like Michelle Garcia Winner’s friendship pyramid.
I like the the pyramid because it’s a visual representation to kids that, as you move through friendships, the number of people in each category gets smaller and smaller. In fact, it’s common to have only 1-2 best friends in your life. Here’s a brief explanation of each stage of the friendship pyramid. You can talk with kids about what each stage means and help them identify people who fall into that category for them. It’s also a great jumping off point for generating ideas to move from one stage to the next on the pyramid and figuring out how to make closer connections.
At the bottom of the pyramid is friendly. You are at a friendly level with everyone you meet. You can be friendly to people in a store, at the movie theater or in a restaurant. You can be friendly with people and they can be friendly to you, but it doesn’t mean that you are friends, that comes higher up in the pyramid. To be friendly, you can smile, use nice manners, or perhaps make small talk.
Acquaintances are people that you meet, or see on a regular basis, and you may even know their name, but you’re not close with them. They could be kids in your class or a partner for a project. You may have polite, small talk conversations but you don’t share secrets with them.
Someone you talk to regularly and see on a regular basis. You see them every day, you talk with them, you share details of your life with them, but you don’t meet outside of school. You can grow more comfortable with them over time as you share experiences, jokes and stories. You may recognize that you have some common interests and strike up conversations about those.
This is taking friendship to the next level. You realize that you and a possible friend have a lot in common. You don’t have to have every single thing in common, but you have some shared interests. Maybe you both love playing Minecraft or you both love Anime. You enjoy spending time with each other and you appreciate the other person’s personality. You start to make plans to get together outside of where you’ve initially met. Maybe you go to each other’s homes or plan to go to the mall together.
Close friend/best friend are at the very top of the pyramid. This is someone you completely trust with your secrets. You can count on them when you are having a hard time with something or need help. They celebrate with you when things go well. They are there for you to support you and you support them as well. You often spend time together doing activities you enjoy.
Not everyone you meet is your friend, but anyone you meet could eventually become a friend if they moved up the pyramid. There isn’t a specific time frame for each stage. Every friendship evolves differently. Some friendships take a long time to develop, and some move a little faster. And just because you move up the pyramid doesn’t mean that you always stay at the same level with that friend.
Just like you can move up the pyramid, you can also move down the pyramid. You can be close friends with someone, then things change and you become more on the level of acquaintances or friendly. Maybe you switch schools, or an activity you were in together finishes. Suddenly, the people you were friends with are not in a common space with you anymore, and that possible friendship doesn’t continue.
If you want those friendships to continue, you need to make a concerted effort to stay in touch and make plans outside of your common space. Friendships take time and some effort, but they are worth it!