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78icon.gif (3321 bytes)"With a little help from my friends?"

Objective
To learn that having friends is an important part of growing up, but being in charge of the friendship rather than allowing it to control you is also important.

Background
As children grow into adolescence, they become increasingly interested in themselves as separate individuals, no longer just a son or daughter in a particular family. One of their primary concerns is whether they will ever become an adult, functioning fully on their own and making decisions for themselves by themselves. This concern and need to separate more from their family may put youths at odds with their families.

Adolescents begin to feel at ease with others in similar positions - their friends. Friendships during this time period are often intense although they may be very short-lived. Best friends today may not be speaking to each other tomorrow. But these youths want to be with each other to learn about themselves (“Am I normal?”), to try new things and test the limits of others, and to gain support while growing up. The need for friends is so strong that sometimes this desire controls them and causes them to do things they know are wrong just to belong to a particular group of friends.

Experimentation with substances is high during this time period. Experimenting with the gateway drugs (tobacco, alcohol and marijuana) is particularly troublesome. Children of this age may know drug use is illegal and harmful, but the desire to belong is so great that friends may control clear thinking and appropriate behavior. Since friendships are important, it is necessary to help youth negotiate the risk-strewn path of gaining and keeping good friends.

Activities
As a warm-up activity have students recall the name of a good friend they had when they were five years younger. Have them write the name on a piece of paper, followed with a description of why they considered this person a friend, what they did together, what were both good things and bad things about the friendship, and what is the status of the friendship at the present time. Sharing some of this information in a class discussion will focus the class for the following activity.

Divide the class into groups of six. Each group should separate into two groups of three. Each group of three will choose one person to be the official friend of the official friend from the other group. Allow the small groups time to prepare a scenario in which one friend will try to get the other to do something new and good, such as trying a new sport. Next, the group should prepare a scenario in which one friend will try to get the other to do something wrong, such as stealing a candy bar from the grocery store. Then role-play the scenarios with the goal of learning new and different ways to say yes or no to the good and no to the bad. After completing the role-playing situations, each group should report to everyone what they learned, what worked in saying no, and how difficult it was to say no. The importance of having friends on your terms -- terms that allow appropriate, safe, and legal behavior -- is the emphasis of this lesson.

Resources
The resources for this lesson include: a chalkboard for compiling a list of what students learned after the activity; paper and pencils for all students; a comfortable atmosphere where chairs can be moved around and little role-playing settings created.

Teacher tips
The direct link between drug prevention and this lesson is that the desire to have friends may be the source of experiment-ation and use of drugs. To learn to say no or to leave a group whose members you do not believe are behaving appropriately is difficult to do. Youths need both courage and encouragement to do this. Teachers directing this lesson need to be open, to listen carefully to what is being said, and to guide students to hear what others are saying. Examples of great friendships from history and literature could also be brought into the lesson. One example might be military alliances between nations and the results of those alliances.

Divide the class into groups of six. Each group should separate into two groups of three. Each group of three will choose one person to be the official friend of the official friend from the other group. Allow the small groups time to prepare a scenario in which one friend will try to get the other to do something new and good, such as trying a new sport. Next, the group should prepare a scenario in which one friend will try to get the other to do something wrong, such as stealing a candy bar from the grocery store. Then role-play the scenarios with the goal of learning new and different ways to say yes or no to the good and no to the bad. After completing the role-playing situations, each group should report to everyone what they learned, what worked in saying no, and how difficult it was to say no. The importance of having friends on your terms — terms that allow appropriate, safe, and legal behavior — is the emphasis of this lesson.

Download Activity Worksheet
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