Often, childhood friendships disintegrate into nothingness. It’s no one’s fault, there’s no huge fight or grand betrayal – but the friendships that once were the most comfortable things in the world start to feel too tight, like the favourite shoes you bought years ago and now are two sizes too small.

‘It’s natural,’ your mum tells you. ‘People outgrow each other,’ your dad says. And they’re right, of course. Some friendships don’t last.

But some do.

These friendships, the ones that started in sandpits when some kid looked at you and didn’t immediately smash your sandcastle with their foot? They’re pretty damn special. So while it might be hard to keep up childhood friendships once you stop seeing each other every day at school or when you actually have to arrange to get together rather than being able to rely on your mums to sort it out, there are a lot of reasons you should hang in there and go the distance with a longterm friendship. For example…

1. They can always help unpack the dishwasher in your house, because they know where everything goes better than you do.

2. You have permanent and inalienable rights to their wardrobe.

3. And they won’t get too cross if you spill on their best top, because, let’s be honest, they’ve done the exact same thing to you.

4. You don’t have to explain your weird Uncle Frederick to them because they know your weird Uncle Frederick. In fact, they sat next to him last year at your birthday dinner and had a nice chat about the Romans.

5. They will be honest and tell you that no, you won’t suit a fringe.

6. And they’ll be sympathetic when you ignore them and get the fringe anyway, and end up completely hating it.

7. You can call them to ask them the name of your primary school librarian.

8. And if they don’t know the answer, at least they’ll be able to share in your frustration.

9. Let’s be honest, who remembers their sixth birthday? You never know, your long-term BFF might.

10. You can sit with them in silence for ages without ever being uncomfortable.

11. And you can be as weird as you like, without worrying that they’re going to stop being your friend.

12. Because these are people who’ve probably seen you pee your pants. At least once.

13. They never forget your birthday because it’s seared into their memory as deeply as their own.

14. You have childhood photos of each other that you can make into pretty collages. 

15. Or use for blackmail.

16. They know the name of your childhood toy.

17. And that you still like to cuddle it when you’re ill or sad.

18. They won’t judge you for what subjects you choose in school, what career you aspire to or what grades you get – they knew you long before any of these things even mattered.

19. And maybe most importantly? Because they’ve loved you at every stage of your life; when you were missing your two front teeth or you couldn’t tie your shoes. They’ve loved you when you couldn’t even spell your own name, let alone write it down. They’ve loved you when you called them crying at 2am or when you’ve given them a hideous cold by sneezing in their face accidentally.

Long-term friendships don’t always work out, but when they do they’re amazing. If you’re lucky enough to get the chance, maybe you should give them a try.

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Image: Hailey Hamilton

It’s 9.30am, Saturday morning, and I am standing bare-legged in a muddy field: hard, cold rain pelting my t-shirted shoulders, icy wind blowing a gale up my skirt.

In one hand, I carry a long stick with a net on the end, while the other is in the grim clasp of the opponent I’ve been instructed to shake hands with. “Hi! I’m Clare,” I introduce myself, brightly. “I’m pretty rubbish at this; in fact, the chances are strongly in your favour.” She looks at me warily, like this is some kind of distraction technique – but by the end of the game, I’ll have managed to convince her. Though I loved playing, turned up to practice religiously and enter into every game with gusto, I was – and still am, I suspect – genuinely bad at lacrosse.

I can’t run very fast – being by nature more of a long distance girl – and the art of running, holding a ball in my stick and cradling it (a strange motion in which you wiggle the stick from side to side) at the same time eluded me. I could almost catch the ball – but when it comes to ball games, almost-catching doesn’t get many goals.

Fortunately for the school, I was in the B team – which in some schools would be an esteemed position but at St Helen’s meant losing most games and winning, by total fluke, just a handful. On one memorable occasion we lost three games at a tournament just because we forgot which pitch we were on.

We were, in short, a shambles – but man, did we have fun with it. Pressure off (if we turned up, we’d exceeded the school’s expectations) we were free to enjoy the game for what it was: a means of meeting mates, getting some fresh air and exercising with a common goal loosely in mind. If the goal was reached, it was a bonus: if not, we’d still worked out, mucked in and had a laugh in the process.

Free of the pre-match nerves, we enjoyed both the coach journey there, with its banter and colourful energy bars; and the ride back, where our ‘post match analysis’ consisted of raucous re-enactments punctuated with laughter. We enjoyed ourselves: a feeling which those who are good at team sports can often miss out on because the pressure’s on and if they mess up, their team mates point the finger, shout angrily, or talk about them behind their back.

Taylor ball

These are the joys to be found in a team sport when you stop worrying about how well you’re playing, and start asking why you’re playing. Yes, you’re playing to win – but unless there are lives or great prizes at stake, aren’t you playing for something more?

Of course, it is not just ‘the taking part that counts’, as with all things you get out what you put in, and there’s honour as well as more exercise in trying hard. But stop (not on the pitch, obvs) and look at the game as a whole and you will reap rewards so much more more satisfying than cups, trophy shields and goals.

You’ll be stronger: not just physically (though being able to stand up to your brother’s pretty great) but mentally too. Exercise and fresh air works wonders for the brain as much as for the bod, releasing chemicals which make you feel good (endorphins) and improving memory and performance. Besides, it is character building, persisting in something you find challenging – even if (in fact, especially if) you are used to being top of the class in everything else.

Most people give up activities they aren’t very good at. But the funny thing is, it’s often in doing the stuff you’re not good at that you find other strengths. One B-team mate’s insistence on hitting the ball round the field rather than carrying it in the stick brought her to hockey; my flat inability to reach any speed higher than steady jog is what lead me to cross-country running; and of course, there is always the possibility that you might get better at the sport itself. Many of our B team ended up in the As.

I didn’t. Even now ball games elude me. But the memories of our floundering on the pitch, and the fits of giggles afterwards – they’re still strong. Honed by hilarious defeats, our team’s sense of humour equipped us with one of the most invaluable life skills: the ability to laugh at ourselves.

@finney_clare

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Image: Getty

We all know that bae has nothing on your BFF. I mean, the second ‘F’ literally stands for forever.

But sometimes, ‘forever’ doesn’t actually end up meaning forever. It might mean, ‘for high school’. It might mean, ‘for the summer’. It might mean, ‘until my crush realises they love me back and we spend the rest of our lives holding hands and gazing at each other while taking long walks along beaches’ (cheers for that one, Bryony).

When it comes to heartbreak, relationship breakups tend to get all the glory. There are gazillions of love songs and squazillions of books (what? Those could be real numbers) that deal with romantic heartbreak. But sometimes friendship breakups are the real arrows to your heart.

With romantic splits, people expect you to wallow. Everyone gives you a free pass if you are unable to get through a two minute conversation without weeping. You’re allowed to hole up in your room and refuse to eat anything of nutritional value, while concerned friends and family stroke your hair and tiptoe round bringing you cups of tea and letting you have the best biscuits.

But, when you break up with your BFF, everyone expects you to carry on as normal. To change that profile picture of the two of you, smiling with your arms wrapped around each other, without fuss. To ignore the eery silence of your phone, which no longer lights up every two minutes with a message from her. People expect you to be angry, not sad. To bitch and rage and plot revenge, not dissolve in a pile of tissues every time you smell her favourite body spray.

Well, screw that. I say you’re allowed to grieve for friendship breakups.

Hell you’re more than allowed – I fully encourage it.

Eat ice cream straight out of the tub. Put on your comfiest, grossest pyjamas. Watch The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants twice. Or three (ok, eight) episodes of Friends. Don’t wash your hair. Make a weepy Spotify playlist filled with heart-wobbling songs by Adele and Drake.  Let yourself be sad.

new girl

There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting yourself be sad. I weep at the John Lewis Christmas advert for two months solid, so it makes sense that I weep for the end of my actual, real-life friendships.

But then – then, you need to put your tissues away, paint your nails turquoise blue and get back on the horse. Focus on what the friendship taught you. Maybe this BFF taught you the importance of honesty, or that sometimes you should be kinder than is strictly necessary. Maybe she taught you how to do the macarena backwards.

Whatever it is, looking for those silver linings will help you form stronger friendships in the future.

Of course, you might get back together one day, and your friendship might be stronger because of your time apart. But if you don’t, there are seven billion (this one is an actual number, I promise) other potential friends waiting out there who would be lucky to have you.

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Supported by Girlguiding

1. You somehow manage to eat your own body weight in sweets, chips, ice cream and any other unhealthy food you can get your muddy hands on. Junk food doesn’t count on the weekend, right?

2. You choose the exact same meal as your bff just to avoid the pain of having to queue in different lines.

3. When you and your bestie see your fave performing acts, you have a minute of major fangirling and end up looking like a tomato because you’re so embarrassed.

4. By the end of night one, your camera roll is spammed with photos and videos of cute boy bands and accidental double chin selfies.

5. You sprinkle glitter around your eyes and then suddenly ALL of your belongings are smothered in sparkle dust – even your ‘just in case’ pair of clean socks which your mum packed for you.

6. You and your bff end up with tonnes of inside jokes that last a lifetime
and if they’re ever mentioned again, you can’t but help laugh so much you cry out your nose. Yep, that’s a thing.

7. You “accidentally forget” to brush your teeth after breakfast and no one even mentions having a shower…

8. You and your bff try to dress like twins every day, at least once involving matching hair braids and UV rave paint.

9. By the end of the weekend, the bond between you and your “tentmates” is unbreakable – so much so, you don’t even care who sees your dirty clothes anymore.

10. On the dreaded journey home, you and your bestie fall asleep on each other’s shoulders. Cue synchronised snoring and shoulder dribbling, but who cares? That’s what festival besties are for…

Words by Anya Heappey

Growing up, I was always a teensy bit jealous of the way my male friends handled their disagreements. They’d have an argument, sometimes a shouting match, sometimes even a bit of a scrap, and then that would be that. They’d move on; friends again, as if nothing had happened.

Now I’m not saying I wanted to go around putting my friends in headlocks (well… maybe it seemed tempting sometimes) but the boys’ method looked so simple compared to the way I tried to handle things. Brought up to always be ‘nice’, and scared my friends might ditch me if we argued, I avoided telling people that I disagreed with them, or that the face they had pulled at my new (totally awesome by the way) school bag had upset me.

Instead, I’d sit there feeling cross and upset until eventually the feelings faded away. But, looking back, I was probably pretty sulky and snappy in the meantime. No fun for anyone. And lot of girls I’ve spoken to have told me they feel the same.   

Emma Gleadhill is a speaker and coach who helps young people to manage their relationships. She says it’s not surprising that girls can struggle with conflict, especially given how we’re often raised and what we deal with in society.  

“Everyone is different, of course, but research shows that parents are more likely to stop girls who are getting a bit rough with each other than boys. So girls grow up less practised at dealing with conflict. Also, if you look for female role models in the media who are assertive and powerful but also kind, there aren’t very many. The media often portrays strong women as nasty – like with Hilary Clinton in the US election. Girls feel like they’re walking a really fine line: trying to speak up about their feelings and get what they need, but not come across as aggressive.”  

Emma also says that fear of friends ditching you is also very normal among girls. “When they’re going through puberty, girls tend to seek out very close best friendships, and those friendships are so important to them that they don’t want to rock the boat. So tensions underneath the surface bubble away and what started off as an honest friendship can become quite a fake one, where both people are actually pretty unhappy.” 

As I’ve grown up, I’ve gradually become more comfortable with conflict. Now I see it as something healthy and empowering. I stand up for myself and what I believe in. I even tell my friends if they’ve upset me. And guess what? Nobody’s ditched me yet. In fact, my strongest friendships are with the people I feel I can be totally honest with.  

But getting to this stage has taken a fair bit of practice. And man, do I wish I’d started earlier. It would have saved me a whole lot of upset (not to mention all the hours I wasted secretly fuming). 

So, just in case you fancy getting a bit better at it, too, Emma has shared her top tips for dealing with conflict in a healthy way. Go on, give it a go. You deserve to be heard. 

1. Practise being assertive

The skills we use in healthy conflict, like quick thinking, responding thoughtfully and speaking up, can be built up with practice. It’s a bit like exercising a muscle. Set yourself little targets that will develop your skills and confidence. You can start really small, like putting your hand up in class to answer a question.

2. Learn from the best

Conflict doesn’t always have to involve difficult conversations or emotions. Some people debate with others just for fun. Find those people and watch how they go about things. It could be your relatives having a passionate discussion about the best way to make the Christmas gravy, or the members of your school debate team arguing about a hot topic in the news. Take note. 

3. Stand up for yourself in the moment

If someone says or does something you don’t like, try saying ‘Ouch!’ or ‘Ooh – can I have that in writing?!’ It’s a small comment, so it probably won’t cause a huge fight, but it immediately shows the other person that you didn’t like their behaviour. This is a great way to start setting boundaries with your friends without being too heavy about it.

4. Don’t let things brew

Unless you can genuinely forgive and forget the comment, it’s best to talk to the other person about it sooner rather than later. Take some time to process how you’re feeling but don’t leave things for weeks on end. The longer you bottle up your emotions, the more likely you are to lash out at the other person, and the worse they’ll feel when you reveal how long you’ve been upset for. 

5. Have a plan

If you’re nervous about the conversation, it can help to really think through what you want out of it and how you’re going to make your points. If you have a good relationship with a parent or somebody older, share your plan and ask for their thoughts or advice.

6. Choose the perfect place

Try to talk to the other person face-to-face and somewhere relatively private. There’s no risk of either of you losing face in front of your classmates, which means you should have a more honest conversation, and you’re more likely to find a solution together if you’re just concentrating on each other.  

7. Be flexible

Once you get into the conversation, you probably won’t be able to stick exactly to your plan, and that’s ok. Healthy conflict is as much about listening to the other person as it is about getting your own points across. They might have a good explanation for their behaviour (maybe their family is going through a tough time) but you won’t get to hear it if you’re ranting at them. Try to think of the conversation as an opportunity to work the problem out together. *Try*.   

8. Be real

If you’re confronting a friend who you want to stay on good terms with, tell them you value their friendship and that you want to sort things out so you can stay friends. But don’t be afraid to let them know the consequences if they don’t change their ways. You could say something like: “I need you to understand how I feel because the future for our friendship isn’t looking great if this sort of stuff keeps happening.”

9. Stick to the facts

Focus on things that the other person can’t argue with, like an example of what they did and how it made you feel: “When you said my hair looked stupid this morning it made me feel self-conscious.” Try to avoid insults (“You were such a cow this morning”) and generalisations (“You’re always making fun of me”), as they’ll only get the other person fired up. Plus, they’re easier to deny than actual facts.

10. Stop things escalating

If you feel like a situation is about to get out of hand, take five deep, slow breaths. This will help to slow your heart rate down, meaning you’re less likely to lash out. Next, try to look at the situation from a different angle. Is it really about you? What’s going on with the other person? If you’re too overwhelmed by your emotions to act calmly, make your excuses and get out of there.

11. Stick to your guns

The other person might try to brush off the thing that you’re upset about, but it’s important to keep making your point until you feel you’ve been heard. Try something like, “You might have meant it as a joke but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it made me feel upset.”

12. Look to the future

Always try to end conflict with a plan for how you’ll move forward together, listening to each other’s needs and being good friends to each other in the future. Congratulations – you’re now a confrontation pro. 

@LucindaEverett

Emma Gleadhill runs workshops in schools helping young people to handle their relationships.

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One of the best heart-to-hearts I ever had as a teenager was in the car park in Moor Park station, waiting for my dad to wend his weary way home from work on the Metropolitan line. It was dark, and neither Mum or I could really make out each other’s facial expressions as we discussed Charlie Laurens and first date etiquette. Mum gave me my first – and best – piece of dating advice: don’t order a salad, and never be the first one to text after a date.

Alas it was too late for my crush, Charlie Laurens; I’d already been there, done the ordering a salad and texting him first post-date thing – and been rejected that morning in two devastating sentences. Hence the mum chat: prior to that I’d handled boy stuff well enough with the help of friends and siblings, but I LOVED Charlie with a love too precious, too DEEP for the common room, and only my mum could help me move on.

She helped me swiftly, and conclusively. She ‘fessed up about her first crush, Richard, and how she still didn’t understand why they weren’t together. FORTY YEARS later. Yet with two marriages, two children and a load of great mates under her own belt, she was pretty confident my life would go on. By the time dad came into land, my wounds were – if not healed, then at least bandaged.

I don’t look back longingly on Charlie Laurens; but I do reflect on that conversation, and how being side by side, looking forward in semi-darkness, enabled me to ‘spit it out’ in a way I’d never managed sat opposite someone over lunch in broad daylight. Since then, I’ve found there are a number of times and places in which real, juicy heart-to-hearts are best conducted. Here, in no particular order are mine:

1. In the car

Whether driving or stationary, the same principle applies here as it did in the car park: you don’t have to face each other. Difficult, awkward or potentially embarrassing messages are easier to deliver when one of you’s in the back, or you’re side by side. No one can storm off if things heat up, and the radio is there to helpfully fill any long silences.

Good for: Deep-and-meaningful conversations (DMCs), problem solving, philosophical debates, confessions

Not so good for: shouting matches, beginner drivers who haven’t yet learnt to talk, listen and drive all at the same time, convos that are best resolved with a hug

2. On the phone

The fact that Donald Drumpf made national news the other day for hanging up on the Australian PM tells you everything you need to know about phone etiquette. If you or your partner in conversation haven’t grasped its basic principles – basically, not slamming the phone down – then this isn’t the place, and you should find another time. If you’re a phone fan, though (retro) this can be perfect. Make sure you’ve got minutes plenty of time, and you’re somewhere quiet, free of distractions. Maybe with snacks.

Good for: DMCs, problem-solving, philosophical debates, confessions/awks chats where you’d rather not see the other person’s face

Not so good for: phone-phobics, convos that are best resolved with a hug, Donald Drumpf

3. On a walk

Preferably with dog in tow – to give you some focus and/or comical distraction when you reach a conversational mud patch – but not always. I’ve chewed many a cud on a dogless walk, and 99 per cent of the time they end in success. There’s the winning combo of fresh air and exercise boosting your mood and wellbeing; there’s your surroundings to remark over when things get sticky (“ooh look! A bird”); and again, there’s the possibility of directing any awkward or difficult comments to the sky/trees/your feet/some place other than their face.

Good for: shouting matches (no one can hear you scream); DMCs, problem solving, philosophical debates, confessions/awks chats where you’d rather not see the other person’s face, convos that are best resolved with a hug, Donald Drumpf

Not good for: people who can’t walk easily, rainy days

4. Cooking (or washing up)

There’s nothing like the meditative mindlessness of peeling carrots or washing plates to get the conversational juices going, while at the same time the act of working together toward a shared goal (dinner/clean dishes) offers a safe space where you can discuss everything from TV to online dating, to politics, feminism and – a personal fave – what religion you’d have been brought up in if you could choose.

Good for: DMCs, problem solving, philosophical debates, confessions/awks chats where you’d rather not see the other person’s face, convos that are best resolved with a (soapy, damp) hug

Not good for: shouting matches. Not with all those sharp objects around.

5. Cup of tea

Needs no justification. It’s tea. It’s the British answer to all the world’s problems. My advice – if it’s particular, tricksy convo that’s called for – is to go out for your cuppa, so you’ve got some neutral territory to really thrash it out in. Put your phone away (right away in your bag, not face down on the table) and get some cake in: sounds ridic I know, but somehow sharing food creates a bond than can weather even the hardest of conversational storms.

Good for: shouting matches; if you’re out, the public nature of the place will force you to keep your voices down, and the cake will keep you together.  

Not good for: awkward confessions. Having tea together generally involves sitting opposite and sharing and if you or the other are embarrassed or awkward it can get a bit intense.

6. In the loos

The tendency of girls to have some of our best bants in the ladies is one that has baffled scientists to this day. Maybe it’s the women-only vibe? Maybe it’s the amount of we time we spend queuing in them. Either way, there is something about weeing, wiping, powdering and hair-fluffing that makes us feel comfortable sharing, not just concealer, lip balm and quality chat, but the deepest secrets of our soul.

Good for: DMCs, problem-solving, confessions/awks chats where you’d rather not see the other person’s face, convos that are best resolved with a hug and anything to do with relationships

Not good for: philosophical debates. There’s only so long you can spend in the loo before people outside start to be alarmed and send in Immodium.

@finney_clare

Image: Katie Edmunds

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1. You promise to message and meet up all the time.

text-ok

2. You judge each other’s uniform.

Total idiot gif

3. They quickly find new friends and you get protective. How dare they.

Big Brother 'who is she?' gif

4. You stalk everyone involved in any second of your spare time.

Modern Family stalk gif

5. You debate joining a sports team just so you can go to their school and fight the new friends.

What team gif

6. Your best friend starts to change and you don’t like it. At all. You agreed Snapchat filters were overrated and now look! She’s wearing a flower crown!

Shady Real Housewives gif

7. The “Do you mind if so-and-so comes?” texts start to roll in and encroach on your BFF time.

She doesn't even go here gif

8. Your parents start to ask why you haven’t mentioned your best friend in ages.

fine I don't know gif

9. But then, suddenly, they turn up in your Facebook messages when something goes wrong. They need you and only you.

Best friend back

10. And you realise that no matter where you are, how you’ve changed, and what you’re doing, that’s just life and you’ll always be each other’s number one.

Flying hug gif

10a. (Fine, and the new friends are actually ok…)

Easy A screaming gif

@louisejonesetc

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Festivals are pretty much our favourite thing about summer, so when Girlguiding invited us to their annual Wellies and Wristbands event we COULD. NOT. WAIT. On the festi-menu? Tons of live music, a prettifying pamper zone, hot tubs to chill in, cinema screenings, an amazing inflatable obstacle course, abseiling and even zip-lining! We know, it was totally epic. Want to see how much fun we had? Check out our highlights reel above (and then swiftly sign up to become a Guide so you don’t miss out next year)!

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

I’ll be the first to admit that every now and again, when the scrolling of my *enter any social media platform here* feed becomes aimless and automatic, rather than actually interesting, I’ll have a clear-out.

Much like the annual clear-out of my underwear drawer, sometimes an online clear-out is just necessary. As the years go on you realise that you’re not actually bothered about what the girl-who-you-sat-next-to-in-Maths-in-Year-7-then-never-spoke-to-you-again is getting up to now, and you can’t actually deal with any more tweets about football from the boy-you-met-at-a-friend’s-party-once-and-followed-because-he-was-a-bit-fit anymore. So you unfriend/unfollow them. Done. Sorted. Easy.

But, what happens when you want to unfriend someone in real life? Like, an actual friend you speak to and hang out with? There’s no button for that. No easy way out. But it can be done…

Is it ok to unfriend someone, or am I instantly a bad person?

No, you’re not instantly a bad person. Sometimes friendships just fizzle out, and people change or want different things. Suddenly they’re into house music and you’re still pining for a Girls Aloud reunion, or they deleted their Pokémon Go app and you are 100% not ready to stop catching ‘em all. And that’s ok. In that case, you’ll probably both drift away from each other naturally with no hard feelings.

But sometimes the feeling isn’t mutual. I spoke to Irene S. Levine, a psychologist and writer on friendships, and she said to remember that, “Friendships are voluntary relationships and should be mutually satisfying.” Irene is so right. You shouldn’t have to force yourself through a friendship if you’re not feeling it. That’s not fair on either of you.

How do I unfriend someone who’s horrible to me, and I’m a bit scared of them?

If someone is intentionally nasty to you, either publicly or privately, then you are totally justified to unfriend them. 

Irene suggests that taking control and being direct with this person about your feelings and wishes may be best, but if you’re worried about being physically or verbally threatened then speak to a trusted adult about the situation first. If you definitely don’t want to be direct with this friend, then you can try to quietly distance yourself from them by hanging out with others. Irene emphasises that “you don’t owe that person a lengthy explanation” – and you really don’t. It’s ok to put your safety and feelings first.

How do I unfriend someone if there’s nothing wrong with them, but I just don’t really want to hang around with them anymore?

Have you started putting your bag next to you on the bench when you see them walking over? Or hear yourself wince when their name appears on your phone? Yeah, it might be a sign that this friendship isn’t all rainbows and smiles, and it’s best to nip it in the bud before you start being out-and-out horrible to them or act like you’re swatting away a fly.

Irene says, “Sometimes it’s best to gradually spend less time with the other person or see them for briefer periods or see them as part of a group. It’s also perfectly fine to tell a friend that you want to expand your circle of friends.”

You could get all hippy and ‘I want to find myself’ on them before running off to Thailand*, or continue to politely decline their invitations of hanging out until they get bored of asking (or you run out of excuses). Whether you’re direct or not, there isn’t really a nice way around it. Just remember that it’s healthy in the long run.

You might even find that by spending a little less time with them, you’re happy and don’t need to cut ties. Sometimes we all need a break from people. We have those friends we could be with 24/7, and other friends who are maybe a bit full on and your head can only deal with a few hours. And that’s fine!

*ok, the other side of the school

Are you sure I won’t hurt their feelings?

There’s no guarantee it’ll be plain sailing, but hopefully they’ll understand that friendships change and you’re not to blame. Then they’ll use a photo of your face as a dartboard.

JOKING.

Hopefully…

If they do take it really badly, then maybe it’s a sign that this was the right thing to do. But it’ll likely be fine and any awkwardness will settle. You’ll both hang out with other friends and, who knows, you might even be on the same path in a few years and be best buddies again.

Hold on, I’VE been unfriended. Why?! What did I do?!

“If you know you said or did something wrong, apologise as soon as possible,” Irene says. “Or, perhaps, it was something you didn’t do or say that you should have!” Basically, the best thing is to just ask. It might be easier said than done, but if you’re hurt and confused then you have a right to ask what’s going on. Hopefully you can have a good conversation about it, but if not then it may be best to just let it lie, at least for the time being.

And remember, people change. Try not to not jump to the easy conclusion of: OMG WHAT DID I DO, WHAT DID I SAY, AM I AWFUL?! Reflecting on Irene’s advice is great if you’re on either side of this often uncomfortable and awkward situation.

(I’m still holding out for that Girls Aloud reunion…)

You can find Irene on Twitter, @irenelevine, and at www.TheFriendshipBlog.com.

@louisejonesetc

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Manjit Thapp

The start of the school year always brings new things. New shoes, maybe a school bag, and definitely loads of stationery. But it can also bring a new school – and if you’re joining at any point other than the very start, then you’re the ‘new girl.’

Once upon a time, I was the new girl. I joined my school late after returning from living in Australia. I had a funny accent, weird clothes, and no idea which classroom I was meant to be in. Everyone else, meanwhile, knew everything – each other, how to find the lunch hall, and a lot more French.

As my accent and I learned, it’s not easy being the new girl. I did a particularly bad job of it – especially when a game of ‘piggy in the middle’ with my notebook led to it flying out the window and landing in a puddle right by the headmistress’s window. I was promptly taken to see her and told that my lack of respect for the school was unacceptable, and if any of my belongings ended up in places they shouldn’t again then I’d be looking for another new school. Sure, because that’s fair.

Thankfully, the rest of my books stayed where they were meant to and I didn’t get into too much more trouble. Mostly. But it took me a while to find my place, and I sometimes found it tough.

I hear from other former new girls, though, that getting to know a whole new bunch of people can actually be fun. So, if you’re the new one this year, here are a few tips to help you on your way:

1. Don’t feel like you have to cling to the first person who shows interest.

When you first turn up there’s likely to be one person who’s really keen to befriend you – they might just be really lovely, they might be a bit lonely, or they might think you look like someone they’d like to be friends with. And that’s great. But don’t feel like you have to cling onto them and not get to know the rest of your new classmates. It’s worth taking the time to find the people who will be your new BFFs for reasons other than they got there first.

2. Sometimes first impressions can be wrong.

When you’re in a new class there are lots of people to get to know all at once, so it’s easy to stick with first impressions. But it’s not always wise – some people might be having a bad day, or aren’t sure what to ask you, or are a bit shy. Give them a chance, and get to know them a bit. And don’t worry too much about what impression you make. I’ve been told that the first thing most people thought about me was the I had a really weird fringe, but thankfully they moved past my odd hair and got to know me. And then told me my fringe looked stupid.

3. Be ready to answer the same questions a lot.

Where have you come from? Why have you moved? Is there some dark secret about why you’ve turned up late? It can’t be as simple as your family just moving house, or this seeming like a better school for you. Nope, you must have done something so appalling at your old school that you’ve had to change schools. And maybe your name.

Obviously it’s tempting to make a story up (both my parents are SPIES!), but keeping up with your own lies gets tiring. Just stick with the truth instead.

4. Got a talent? Use it.

One of the easiest ways to make friends is through clubs and teams. Or so I hear – I’ve always been so appallingly terrible at sport that the chances of my making it onto a team were slim-to-none. I did try to play tennis one lunch, but swiftly got banished from the courts when it became apparent that I couldn’t even hit the ball. My sister-in-law, meanwhile, has been blessed with the gift of coordination, and after changing schools at 14 found some of her best friends in the hockey and netball teams. So if the thought of someone hitting or throwing a ball at you doesn’t make you want to hide or cry, then go try out.

5. Be yourself.

It can be tempting to try and act like someone else if you think that’ll get people to like you, but it’s just not worth it. Keeping up that pretence is exhausting. I’m speaking from experience here – it was only when I stopped pretending to like boybands, dyed my hair black and wore of a lot of angry band t-shirts that I became friends with the girls I still love to this day (they invited me to join their band, because I had the right look. Never mind that I couldn’t really play guitar.)

There are bound to be people there who’ll like you for you. After all, if people liked me when I was a strange goth with a weird fringe, there really is a place for everyone.

@JackiBadger

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Image: Hailey Hamilton

Ahh jealousy: the green-eyed monster – the “ulcer of the soul” according to Socrates, a philosopher, poet and all-round ancient wise guy.

The fact that Socrates was born in circa 470 BC in Athens gives you some idea of just how old and stubborn this monster is. It is universal. And when our old pal William Shakespeare first coined the phrase ‘the green-eyed monster’ in Othello, he added “it mocks the meat it feeds on” – that is: you. Ouch.

Basically, there are no winners in jealousy; nothing to be gained. The object of your envy continues to ace life/love/work/the whole shebang, while you just flail around and feel bad about yourself. 

So is there way to prevent it? Or, when that queasy green feeling hits the pit of your stomach, make it disappear? Well, one thing that’s really important to remember when it comes to envy is that you are not alone: we’ve all felt it, and lots of us have even lost friends over it. But, from the best of my experience and those whose brains I have picked, here’s my best advice for keeping the monster at bay.

Say your congrats immediately 

Celebrate with them, whatever it is you’re obsessing over. As with any task in life, the longer you leave it the harder it is. You’ll start to look bitter, then you’ll feel more bitter, fearing that people might think that you’re bitter – and so on and so on into a green hole of ill feeling and pain.

Go the extra mile

If you can bear to meet the new boyfriend/girlfriend you’re so jealous of, then do it – they might make a great mate. They might have great mates. Likewise, if a celebration’s in order, be the one to send a card, or organise a surprise party. You’ll feel good about yourself, and they’ll love you for it. You know that saying, fake it ’til you make it? It’s the same with emotions. Act like you’re thrilled for them and have no jealousy whatsoever and pretty soon you’ll start to feel that way, too.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em… 

One of the bestselling self-help books of all time is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It does exactly what it says on the cover, looking at everything from time management to ambition to healthy eating habits, and gives advice on how we can do them ourselves. Look beyond the success of the person you envy to the habits they have instead – and steal those habits. Maybe they’re early risers. Maybe they keep a to-do list. Look, listen and copy. Success rarely happens by chance. 

…or don’t join em. At all. 

Climb your own mountain! Whatever the object of your envy is doing – be it a sport, an instrument or an essay title – do something else. If it’s their wardrobe you’re loving so much, find your own style instead; open your eyes to other potential crushes; play a new tune. You won’t have time to worry about their victories if you’re working towards your ones, and your friendship will be stronger for it. Not everyone can be Serena and Venus Williams, so quit trying. 

Count your achievements

Actually don’t just count them – write them down, and reflect on each one. Yep, this is a bit immodest, but hey – no one’s looking, and the main source of jealousy is insecurity about your own worth. As any genuine interview with any celebrity will ever tell you, we all feel insecure now and again. If quietly listing your own successes is a way to fight that, then go for it: it’s only arrogance if you go trumpeting that list in people’s faces. Look at the list every morning until the envy is gone – and if you need to, listen to I Am What I Am while you do it and channel the fierceness of a five drag queens.

There you go. Better now?

@finney_clare 

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Okay. Take a long, deep breath. This won’t hurt, I promise. All you need to do is pick up your rucksack, heave through those heavy double doors, pull your skirt down just enough to get past Mrs Cadman without comment (she’ll be standing there like a dragon as always, waiting to pounce on the slightest suggestion of an upper thigh) and get to the reassuring banter of your classroom.

Some say the first day back sucks. I always quite liked it: the sweet, the gluey smell of new textbooks, the clean zip of a fresh pencil case, the post-holiday chatter. Even the teachers seem pleased to see you — yes even Mrs Cadman, provided your collar’s flat and your skirt is of acceptable (read, nunnery) length.

So how to make the most of it? How to make those first blank pages count both literally and metaphorically? I’m no expert but I did some research* and here, in no particular order, is what I learned.

*whatsapped the ‘St H Sisters’

Get your sh*t together

Dw, not All of Your Life Sh*t. Just the sh*t that involves putting your pens in your pencil case, and your pencil case in your bag along with your books, your PE kit, your (completed, ideally) homework — that kind of sh*t. Do it the night before — I know I sound like your ‘rents, but they’ve got this one, really they have. They’ve done school. You’ll feel less stressed in the morning. You’ll be less likely to forget stuff. There’s nothing worse than spending the first day nicking your friends old, dry biro and scribbling on borrowed note paper that you then have to spend that evening pritt-sticking into your new books.

Get there on time

See above re stress levels. Some folk don’t care too much, granted, but you won’t know until you get there, sweating and panting your excuses, whether or not your new teacher is a punctuality Nazi — and relative to, say, calculus, getting your ass to school on time is a relatively easy thing to achieve.

Eat breakfast

Even if it’s just a crumpet. Even if it’s just on this day, and you spend the rest of term wolfing down cereal bars at lunch time. Prepare some granola and fruit the night before, or just get up five minutes earlier. It sounds brutal, but you’ll think of me when you look for the White Magnum you were reaching for at 11am, only to find you’re actually in school and not at home next to the freezer.

Speak to someone you’ve not really spoken to before

Once school starts, everyone will settle down into their existing friendship grooves, and you’ll have missed your chance to widen the circle. Some of the best friends I have today were those I made simply by chatting to someone on the first day back, when everything is bit new and different and speaking to someone outside your friendship circle is, for a brief, hallowed period, not totally suspect. In my experience, the finest friends aren’t those you end up with by default, but those you actively choose.

Concentrate in a lesson you’ve never really concentrated in before

You might surprise yourself. The year I did this with German, having written myself off as irredeemably monolinguistic, I changed my grade from C to A, and sort of fell in love with the country, too.

Take a pukka packed lunch

Hummus, avo, tuna and sweetcorn pasta salad – whatever floats your boat. Just ensure it’s something to look forward to, to get you through the dark hours.

Pretend it’s another day of holiday

This won’t work for everyone, but bear with me on this because it saw me through a few false school starts. What if school were just another way of spending your holiday? What if you’d just woken up that day, in September, and thought, ‘hey! I wonder what this school business is like? Learning some things with my friends and running around some fields and gently, mockingly resisting the authority of adults?’ What if you decided to do it — just for a day, just to see how it went. You’d probably end up approaching it with a much more open-minded and positive attitude than you are currently, reading this in your pants with one eye on Stranger Things, with the mother of all Sunday blues on your shoulder.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Hotel Chevalier