Squad Goals for Tweens and Teens
#squadgoals Yes, I remember the first time I saw this phrase. It was on a t-shirt listing Ruth, Mary, Sarah and Esther. About the same time, my oldest son started using the word “squad” when he referred to his friends.
After riding in the car with my daughter and three of her friends tonight, I was reminded how important having a “squad” is to a young person. Regardless of what you call them—friends, tribe, squad, besties—they are critical for young people.
Defining The Term “Squad”
Most simply, a “squad” is a group of close friends that look out for each other. A squad spends time together. They usually have a shared interest or activity they participate in together. And, a squad is significant because the identity of a young person is tied to that group of friends. They have a place to belong.
Benefits of Having A “Squad”
There is no doubt that having a set group of friends is critical to a young person. These benefits include:
- Joy — Being connected to people who care about you, allows you to experience joy and to be happy. We are truly designed to be in relationships. Genesis 2:18 states that it’s not good for man to be alone.
- Accountability — Friends can hold each other accountable for their behaviors, words and choices. This is positive peer pressure and for that I am glad. Let’s be honest, youth face enough negative peer pressure. Having a group of friends that can help balance that or even tip the scales positively is a blessing.
- Allowed to still be a kid — I’ve noticed with all of my children, one of the greatest things about their friendships is that they laugh and have fun. When they are with their friends, they can let down their guards and be silly and goofy. There isn’t a pressure to hurry up and grow up. There are just moments when they are hanging out with their friends that they are still kids.
- Everyone needs a place to belong. — Knowing that you belong somewhere and being connected to others is a key developmental outcome young people need to experience. In fact, this is one area they continually seek out.
Can Squads Be Unhealthy?
Unfortunately, squads and friendships have the ability to become unhealthy. The Bible is clear to us on this.
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”1 Corinthians 15:33
Examples of unhealthy friendships include:
- Leaving Others Out — Sometimes close friend groups begin intentionally excluding others from being in their group or “squad.” This can also grow into there being a set of rules or expectations to join or even remain in the friendship circle. That puts a lot of negative pressure on a young person.
- Becoming Prideful — There’s nothing wrong with feeling good about belonging. The danger is when someone starts to assume and then acts on the belief that they are better than others. This can happen when kids start to evaluate how popular their group is and begin comparing themselves to others. When young people begin to evaluate their own worth on how popular they are, that is unhealthy.
- Limiting Friendships — When a group begins to discourage members to be friends with anyone outside of themselves, that is also unhealthy. When friendships are discouraged or limited, that deters young people from building relationships that can have additional positive impacts and create new opportunities.
Growing With and Separate From Your Squad
My daughter has her own “squad” that really grew out of a shared interest…soccer. She became good friends with her teammates. This has led to many sleepovers and lots of hanging out. She has good friends who root for her to do well and love her for who she is. And, she does the same for them. These friendships assist in developing her identity and building her self-esteem as well as those of her friends.
This past year I have watched my daughter and her friends begin to spread their wings and try different activities and explore different interests. That naturally happens in the middle school and high school years. While this same group of friends still likes to spend time together, they have also begun to form friendships separate from the soccer field.
With all of my children’s friendships, what I have seen emerge is squads within squads. In other words, some kids grow closer to each other within their friend group. As a mom, that can be hard to watch. We sometimes fear our child is being left behind. We need to remember that all tweens and teens are exploring who they are and want to become.
We can offer gentle encouragement to youth to always be kind and find the value in others. We can also remind them that friendships do shift over time, but that doesn’t mean they have to stop caring about each other. As youth and their friendships evolve, the question becomes how do we help young people grow friendships that lead them to God and to their purpose in life.
Helping Youth Set Squad Goals
Whether you are a parent or a youth ministry volunteer, helping youth to set friendship and relationship goals is an important role you play in their lives.
First, let me say, youth do not want adults, especially moms, picking their friends. While that might have worked when they were two, it’s not the same during the tween and teen years. (Remember setting up those plays dates where the moms hung out while the kids played? Sigh. Sometimes I miss those days.).
So, how do we help young people set relationship goals?
Below are several ways to engage youth in setting goals for their friendships.
- Begin a dialogue. — Ask your kids or youth in your ministry group, what they want out of a friendship. Ask them what makes a good friend. Identify how a healthy friendship should make a person feel. When we can get young people thinking about what they want out of a friendship, they are on the way to setting goals.
- Share your experiences. — Be truthful and share appropriate examples of both healthy and unhealthy friendships you had as a young person. Talk about how these friendships helped you to become who you wanted to be.
- Encourage prayer. — Make sure you encourage youth to go to God in prayer. If a young person is lonely, they can pray that God will send someone who fills that gap. If they are in a friendship that isn’t healthy, they can pray for God’s direction and wisdom. When they do have a healthy relationship, encourage them to take time to praise God for that blessing.
- Identify 3 Things. — Help young people to identify 3 healthy things that they want from their friendship group. And, help them identify 3 things they want to contribute to their friendship group. When we have concrete things to look for and work towards, that helps us evaluate things more concretely.
Friendships and relationships will always be of great significance in the lives of tweens and teens. There will be ups and downs. There will be joy and heartache. There will be new and old friendships.
When looking at what friendships should look like, we should turn to the Bible. Jesus is the ultimate example of a sacrificial friend. He gave His life for all of us out of his love. He also modeled time and time again how we should treat others.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.Luke 6:31
Repeat this to your children and to young people. Pray this verse over them and ask God to help them be the kind of friend that would build up versus tear down. Pray for God to bring healthy friendships into the lives of the young people you know and care about. And, then pray for all youth that struggle to find a healthy circle of friends.
In another post, I will share more about how belonging and membership is a developmental outcome that all young people need to navigate youth and transition into adulthood. Make sure you sign up to receive alerts when a new blog posts.