DEAR COUNSELLOR: Birds of a feather

Dr Karelle Hylton, PhD Counselling Psychologist

Dear Counsellor,
I am 13 years old. My parents have been separated since I was 10. My grades are average; I represent my school in Festival and football. I am attending a rural high school and I have been in a lot of trouble at school lately; not because I want to, but because I am friends with children who get into trouble at times. I am always called up to the principal’s office just because these boys are my friends. I have known them since primary-school days. I agree that they break school rules, and hide from classes sometimes, but they are great friends. We talk about sports, gaming and things that I find interesting. Although I have not done anything like they have done, persons are telling me to part company with them. They may be bad, but I am not.

How can I convince the principal, and now my parents, that I am not bad?
– F.J.

Dear F.J.,
I hear when you say that you knew these boys from primary-school days and that is certainly a long time, and it does take time to build meaningful relationships – especially friendships formed in earlier years. The fact that you acknowledge that these friends are getting into trouble ought to be a signal to you that the friendship is evolving, but in a negative way. Your friendship has lasted because you have common interests and you feel a sense of belonging. The concern that your principal and your parents may have stems from the old adage “show me your company and I will tell you who you are”.

Whether you are bad or good really depends on you. It depends on what you show in your social and academic performance. I must caution you, though, that there may come a time where your association will cause you to be percieved as ‘guilty by association’. If of late you have been to the principal’s office and this is due to your associations, maybe it is time to rethink your friendship with these young men. If you can influence them to improve their behaviour, that would work in your favour. However, if this is not the case, then you must be prepared to face the consequences that come with the company you keep.

Have you ever noticed when you see birds flying together, they’re usually synchronised?

They’re all going in the same pattern and direction. The same is true for most people who ‘flock’ together. Whatever they do, they do together – whether good or bad. It can be hard to disconnect from the people you’re closest to, but if what they’re doing is bad, it’s not good to be part of it. Don’t be presumptuous regarding the company you keep. Even the strongest among us can become weak and lose the good traits by keeping bad company.

We are social beings and, as such, we need healthy relationships. It might serve you to form new (other) associations with students who are aligned to following the school rules, performing in an acceptable social and academic manner, and who share your interest in gaming and sports. I wish you all the best!

Dr Karelle Hylton, PhD Counselling Psychologist


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