Acquaintance, friend or best friend?
Teens elevating personal and online relationships from one level to the next could face disappointment and even danger.
That’s the message Westpark Middle School students heard from Ralph Cervi of the Red Deer Crisis Centre on Monday.
The Good, Bad and Ugly is a three-part presentation promoting the best and avoiding the worst in relationships.
Acquaintances are common yet too often treated as friends, said Cervi.
“With social networking, some of you are bumping them up and they don’t deserve this.
“We’ve lowered our standards so much that being nice to each other makes them a friend. We’re supposed to be nice to each other.”
The former RCMP officer questions the Grade 8 students, who take the classes as part of the health curriculum, and elaborates on their perceptive and usually correct answers.
An acquaintance becoming a friend takes trust, replies a girl to his query.
“There has to be some time there getting to know them,” he cautions, adding sharing personal information with acquaintances is risky.
Making a friend a best friend is “like jumping the Grand Canyon: don’t elevate them to this level if they haven’t earned it.
“Best friends accept you for what you are.
“You know a lot more about each other and you don’t have to be phoney.”
Best friends are willing to sacrifice for each other and respect each other’s boundaries.
“Those who don’t have boundaries have nothing but peer pressure issues.”
Cervi shares his past when he asks teens to classify their parents and grandparents as acquaintances, friends or best friends.
“My dad was an acquaintance because I couldn’t trust him,” he explained, saying the man’s reactions could be violent due to his alcoholism.
Cervi asked teens to examine their personal histories because a positive past with rules, consequences and fair treatment differs greatly from an negative past.
“All of us have families that have issues (but) if you’re in an abusive relationship, you chose that. No one has to go down that road. You can make a choice to make a sharp turn.”
The end of a friendship or any other kind of relationship shouldn’t be seen as failure.
“Look at it as a learning experience. It’s only a failure if you don’t learn from it.”
Teacher Gord Strowbridge appreciates the approach Cervi takes because “he builds a good rapport with the kids.”
Niamat Ullah, 13, learned what to look for in a friend.
“Some might be good friends, but you can’t tell them everything.”
Jacob Herrington, 14, appreciated learning to rate people on the acquaintance, friend or best friend scale.
“Now I know the boundaries and about self respect in relationships,” he said, adding his parents warned him not to post anything personal online “because it could be used against me.”
Cervi said he wants “these kids to realize they should be treated the best.
“No one should accept controlling or demeaning behaviour.”