Tips for Building a Better Friendship

  • Make every attempt to have consistent and regular contact with your friend by phone or in person.  This is extremely important throughout your match, regardless of whether it is with a child or adult.  This may be the only thing your friend looks forward to each week and can be devastating when volunteers say they will call or get together on a certain date and do not follow through.  Consistency and dependability are extremely important. Your friend must learn to trust you. Be careful not to make promises you cannot keep.
  • Schedule your meetings in advance.  With a youth match clear the date and time with the child’s parent.  If you are running late for your meeting with your friend, or behind schedule returning your friend to her/his home, be sure to call her/his parent(s) or guardian(s) and let them know the circumstances. If you are unable to visit with your friend as planned, be sure to speak to the both the parent(s)/guardian(s) and your friend to explain the situation. This notification should be done as soon as you become aware of a change in your schedule and at the time of notification, you should set up another date and time to meet.  Communication between you and your friend is extremely important. Calling when you will be absent or late for your meeting builds trust between you and your friend.
  • If you are going to have to cancel plans, tell your friend as soon as possible, and tell him/her in advance when you are going on vacation. While on vacation, you might consider maintaining contact by sending a postcard or making a short phone call.
  • If you are upset on a day you are supposed to meet with your friend, consider the situation before meeting.  In some instances, it might be helpful for your friend to know that you get upset and stressed.
  • Be on time for meetings.
  • Carry out the plans that you and your friend have made ahead of time, but also keep in mind that you need to be flexible if circumstances change.
  • Avoid the temptation to overdo the time spent with your friend in the beginning of the relationship; it will only cause hurt feelings later on when you are likely to have to cut back.
  • It is your responsibility to maintain contact with your friend.  If s/he is to contact you and doesn’t, take the initiative and make a phone call.  This is a common occurrence in many friendships.  Your friend may be aware of how busy you are and not want to feel as though they are bothering you, therefore they are hesitant to call.
  • All volunteers and their friends are strongly encouraged to attend Compeer sponsored group activities so that she/he may have the opportunity to participate in a group activity.

Choosing activities that build history and relationship

  • When choosing activities, involve your friend.  It brings greater investment in the success of an activity if your friend is involved in choosing the activity.  Furthermore, it is empowering and important for your friend to help in the decision making process and to take some of the responsibility for determining how the two of you spend your time together.
  • Keep in mind activities that you both can afford.  With a youth match, consult with the parent in advance on what s/he can afford to pay for an activity.  Remember, it is very important that both persons in the friendship assume some responsibility for paying for activities.
  • Use common sense before selecting an activity.   There are certain activities which might put your friend at unnecessary risk.  If in doubt, call your Program Coordinator to determine if an activity is appropriate.  Under no circumstance should any activity involve sex, drugs, alcohol, weapons, fortune tellers, or firearms.
  • It is recommended that you do not include outside people in get-togethers during the initial stages of your relationship.  Later in the relationship, it might be appropriate to include others as long as your friend agrees to it and does not feel neglected or that the two of you no longer have quality time together.
  • Your relationship with your friend may progress slowly. Be patient and learn to measure progress in small steps.  Don’t push.  Judge success by the degree of friendship achieved, not the change in your friend’s mental health.
  • Your friend may have what appears to be temporary setbacks or regressions.  These may be normal manifestations of a serious and chronic mental illness.  Don’t view them as an outcome of your relationship.

REMEMBER:  Utilize the support that is available to you as you work on developing the relationship.  Your Program Coordinators will assist in providing direction if problems occur and help to facilitate contact with the therapist.