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Summer survival help from IML
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familyvacations1.gifAh, summer! Time to let loose, have fun, take vacations, hang with friends and family, and generally enjoy life, right? Well, that's what TV commercials would have you believe. Don't get us wrong: summer can be amazing. But not always.

Reading through your Advice questions lately, we're reminded of how certain things can make summer a less-than-carefree season for many tweens. As in:

Moving. Your BFF may be relocating with his or her family to a new state. Or maybe it's you who's headed somewhere new. Summer's a big time for this. It's never fun, but there are ways to deal. Check out IML's advice on what to do When Your Family Moves (there are tips in there for when it's a friend who's moving).

Being home alone. You're on vacation from school for a few months, but your parents probably don't get the same break from work. You may find yourself with a lot more solo time in your home than usual. And maybe that's not always a good thing, if you're bored, scared, lonely, or an alternating pattern of all three. Once again, we suggest a visit to our Home Alone section for help, or even just to sound off on the You Said It page.

Family vacations. Ah, the joy of riding in a car or airplane with your loved ones for hours on end. NOT! And then there's what happens once you get there. In between the Kodak moments, a family trip is not complete without arguments, annoyances, mishaps, and possibly some weird relatives too. And yes, we have advice on how to not just survive, but actually have fun amid all the craziness.

Starting middle school or high school. Many IML'ers have already written in to express their worries about moving up to a new school this fall. It's normal to feel some anxiety, especially if you and your best friends are headed to different places, but there are definitely things you can do now to make the jump easier. Check out our advice on Middle School and High School and you're bound to feel a little better...or at least prepared.

Summer camp. If you're an old pro at summer camp, you're probably counting the days until you leave for this year's session. If this is your first year or you're headed for a new home away from home, that can be a little terrifying. Never fear! IML is here with a whole section on Summer Camp.

The purpose of all this? We just want IML'ers to know that it's okay NOT to feel like every minute of summer is pure, unfiltered joy. It's just a time of year, not a break from real life and all its problems. If it seems like everyone else but you is having a blast...chances are, they're really not. But hopefully, with a little information and problem-solving -- whether you find it here at IML or somewhere else -- you can make the best of whatever the summer has in store for you!
 

Theme Park 101
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Thumbnail image for themepark.jpgSpring (and soon summer) is upon us! And for many IML'ers, that can only mean one thing...it's theme park time! Yes, even as you read this, vacationers of all ages are descending like crazy on countless water parks, adventure lands, zoos, and entertainment mega-worlds. A day at a theme park can be a great way to spend quality time with parents, sibs, relatives, and friends, but it's not always easy to have fun the sun (or rain, or whatever) without going absolutely bonkers, passing out from exhaustion, or demanding to be traded to a less annoying group of people.

So IML has put together this list of Top Ten theme park survival tips for tweens:

1) Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Yeah, yeah, We know this sounds like "grandma advice." But sometimes grandmas are smart! They've been around long enough to know, for example, that those stylish, bejeweled metallic flip-flops will probably shred your feet after about an hour of walking across hot concrete, and that really cute mini-skirt might make it tough to go on certain rides. It's natural to want to look and feel your best, especially if you're spending the day with friends, but you're going to have more fun in the end if you can focus on what you're doing and seeing, not what you're wearing. (Also, keep in mind that you'll very likely get wet at some point in the day, from a ride or water feature or Shamu, so wear something that dries quickly.)

2) Divide and Conquer. We love family unity and friendly togetherness as much as anyone, but to survive a long day at a mega park, you're probably gonna have to split up and take different routes at some point...especially if you have a big group. It'll save a lot of arguing and whining about "what to do next." Don't rely only on cell phones to hook back up, in case technical difficulties come up. Instead, try the old-fashioned method of "Let's meet in front of Raging Rapids at 11 o'clock."

3) Think twice about getting in that looooooong line. Yeah, we know that you want to see the just-opened panda exhibit at the zoo, or take a spin on the brand new ultra-dragon roller coaster at the theme park. But is five minutes of fun worth two hours of waiting in line? If you spent those two hours in a different way, you could take your sweet time exploring the zoo's awesome reptile house, or maybe take five rides on the park's older (but still awesome) coaster instead.

4) Shun the sugar. Wait, what? But yummies are the best part! Of course, treat yourself to one or two things during the day. Everything in moderation! The surge-and crash that comes from sugar overload, plus the physical and emotional yuckiness that too many sweet treats can give you, could put a drain on the whole experience. Drink water instead of soda (or better yet, bring a water bottle and fill it up at fountains to save money and waste), and snack on a pretzel instead of a doughnut. 

5) Know the loopholes. Help the adults you're with to read up on the theme park's special time-saving tricks and programs so you can do less waiting in line. Some popular rides, shows, and attractions may have "fast pass" machines so you can get a timed ticket to come back and skip the main line later in the day. Check insider websites and message boards to pinpoint the best day and time to visit certain attractions.

6) Throw out the checklist. Try not to have a long list of every single thing you "must" do while you're at the park. Remember, it's not about packing in as much as you can during the day, but about having an overall good time. If that means slowing down and skipping a few things, so be it. You may have a better day in the end if you take an hour in the middle to rest with a long lunch than if you powered through to the point of exhaustion.

7) Think like a kid. No matter what age you are, places like zoos and theme parks are more fun if you don't think like a grown-up. If you're with younger children, seeing it through their eyes can really make things magical. Relax and have fun. Don't try to be cool and cynical. Be goofy, especially when you actually meet Goofy.

8) Be money smart. These places are designed to practically Hoover cash out of your pockets. Maybe you rely on the adults you're with to buy you everything at the park but if not, give yourself a personal budget for the day and stick to it by bringing snacks, saving your money for one or two souvenirs you really want, and forgoing stuff that costs extra. After it's all over, you'll most remember your experiences rather than the things you bought, and you may avoid that icky "I can't believe how much money I spent" feeling.

9) Don't be a herd animal. Try not to fall into the same patterns as everyone else at the park...that just leads to crowds and unhappiness. Think different. If nearly everyone packs the lunch spots at noon, try having a light snack at eleven and then lunch at 2, when the food lines are shorter and you won't have to fight for a table. If everybody and his cousin is swarming to the main drag for the 5pm parade, maybe that's the time for you to head to the opposite side of the park and get in the (now much shorter) line for the Mayhem Mountain ride.

10) Fights and feuds are normal, but don't let them spoil things. If you and your friends and family have regular tiffs at home, being in the strange, often stressful environment of a theme park can turn those tiffs into wars. Yes, you're here to have fun...but sometimes the pressure to have that fun (plus the heat, and crowds, and exhaustion) can make it harder to come by! Try to resolve conflicts on the spot using compromises and communication. If you have to give in more than you normally would, or put up with something you would never stand for at home, then so be it. You'll probably find that all the cool distractions will help you forget your disagreement and move on to creating great memories together.

Now it's your turn: share your own stories and tips on our Theme Park You Said It page. You can also get more advice in our Family Vacations section. 

Good luck, and have fun!

 
Advice on Valentine's Day dances
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Today, we're wondering: Does anyone ever actually have a good time on Valentine's Day? Maybe if you're in the lucky 1% of people who are happily, securely going out with someone, we can see you enjoying the holiday. But if you're going out with someone but things are a little weird, if you just broke up with someone, if you're not going out with anyone, if you have a crush who doesn't know you exist, if you have a crush who knows you exist but isn't sure how he/she feels about you, if you don't have a crush at all, or if you're a human being with any one of a hundred other situations that we haven't mentioned...Valentine's Day can be, well, not so much fun.

The whole thing is just a lot of pressure and a big marketing ploy to sell cards, candy, and red teddy bears, right?

heart.jpgOkay, we're not really that cynical. Valentine's Day doesn't have to be so all-or-nothing. It's one of those things that really is whatever you make of it, and a "valentine" can be so much more than an object of romance. Do you have parents, siblings, friends, or relatives who have made you feel the love in your life? And how about being a valentine to yourself? Can you celebrate the things about you that you're proud of, happy with, and maybe even love? Think about how to make the holiday your own.

Once you've done that, hopefully you won't stress over dances and other V-Day events planned at school or in your community. But if you're still stressing, here are some ideas:

  • Go with friends. Even if you have a crush and are tempted to try and go with him or her, take that angst out of the equation. You'll probably have more fun with your buds anyway, and who knows...maybe something natural will happen with that crush once you're there.

  • Have fun with the outfit. Dress in whatever makes you feel good (and comfortable), rather than what you think will impress someone else. You and your friends might come up with some kind of "theme" and coordinate. If you want to make your outfit special but can't afford a whole new getup, buy (or borrow) one cool accessory like earrings or a belt.

  • Dance. That may seem like a big "duh," but sometimes it seems like that's the only thing people aren't doing at these things. Here's an opportunity to just let loose and move. Make a pact with at least one friend that you'll be the first people on the dance floor, and see how quickly others join in. Or make it your mission to get a teacher or other adult chaperone to boogie down. Try to think positively and not so much about what people might think of you; chances are, they're jealous that you're having such a good time.

  • If you can't bring yourself to dance, then do some People Watching. Not so much to gather gossip, but rather, just to learn about behavior. Pretend for a minute that you're an alien scientist come to Earth to study the strange social habits of young humans. Try it; it's pretty fun! 
Read other tweens' advice on our How To Have Fun At A Dance You Said It page!


Boo! It's Halloween 2012!
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halloween_boy.jpgWe've always loved reading about your Halloween Costumes. IML'ers are so creative! We're sitting here, imagining a runway fashion show of all your dress-up creations, predicting what will be hot in trick-or-treat wear this year.

For instance, Lady Gaga. There's been much debate on the You Said It boards about her and whether or not her songs and videos are appropriate for tweens, but we predict that won't stop young people from dressing up like the pop superstar. We're sure the real Lady Gaga is thrilled; after all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. (And for the record, we think she's a good role model in the way she has taken a stand against bullying and encourages people to be themselves!)

"Decade" costumes will be as popular as ever, and a lot of you are dressing as 60's hippies, 70's disco dudes and dudettes, and 80's new-wavers. Even 50's greasers and 20's flappers will be out there in force again this Halloween. These are fun costumes to put together because you can raid a relative's closet or thrift store for all the makings.

Vampires are still huge, but Zombies seem to be taking their place as the top scary/creepy costume (and lend themselves to more variety too). We're betting that fairies, especially ones with an edgy or weird twist, will also be big in the not-quite-human department.

Another trend we expect and really love this Halloween is homemade or improvised costumes! Costumes have become a huge money business over the last decade, and it seems like, year after year, more kids and adults are buying outfits from stores instead of getting creative with what they have at hand. We don't know if it's the tough economic times, or if people are just tired of seeing the same pre-made costumes in every store, but we think a lot more of you will be rocking "do-it-yourself" looks this year. Whatever the reason, we at IML really like this trend because, while buying a cool costume can certainly be fun, making your own lets you show just how imaginative you can be at a time of year when imagination rules!

If you're still stuck for a costume idea, here are a few of our faves:

  • Combo costumes. Like "half devil, half angel." Or "zombie cheerleaders" and
    "dead prom queens." It's fun and easy to take something familiar and
    kind of boring, then give it a Halloween twist. Make something unique
    with an existing costume (a great use for hand-me-downs or borrowed
    ones) accented with lots of scary, gory stuff like fake blood, fangs,
    pale makeup, etc. For instance, you could buy a simple fairy costume
    and be an "Evil Fairy" with just a few extra touches!.
  • Pun costumes. Play with words and have fun watching people guess what you are! We love the
    "Cereal Killer" idea one IML'er posted (a cereal box with knives
    sticking out of it). What can you do with things like "Pig Latin,"
    "Anchorwoman," "Black-Eyed Pea," and "Butterfingers"?
  • Black to basics costumes. Dress all in black and you'll be surprised by how
    you can turn yourself into a background for something simple yet
    hilarious. One IML'er posted about how she's using an all-black outfit
    and glow sticks to become a Human Stick Figure. Cover yourself in dryer
    lint and you're Static Cling. Wrap a fake cobweb around yourself, along
    with some plastic bugs, and you're a Spider Web. Cover yourself with popcorn, empty soda cups, and candy wrappers, and you're the Movie Theatre Floor. You get the gist!

For many people, coming up with a costume is too much pressure. Can you
still have fun on Halloween if you don't dress up or feel like your
costume is kinda lame? Well, that all depends on what this "holiday"
means to you. It's something you can decide for yourself. If you see it
as a chance to get dressed up, "be" someone (or something) else, and
exercise your creative muscles, then that's great. If it's just about
having fun with your friends and scoring loads of candy, that's great
too. Maybe it's more appealing to you to stay home and hand out candy
to younger kids. And in the end...it IS just a holiday that will be
over before you know it.

Halloween can also be about helping
children in other countries who don't have stuff like clean water,
nutrition, health care, and education. Chances are, in the past you've
done some collecting at Halloween for UNICEF, the United Nations
Children's Fund. Now, UNICEF (and spokesperson Selena Gomez) has more
options for young people to give as well as get, like creating your own
"Trick-Or-Treat Online" page to collect donations from friends and
family over the Internet, or ideas for hosting a Halloween party
fundraiser. For more information, check out Trick-Or-Treat for UNICEF.



Advice on Valentine's Day
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Today, we're wondering: Does anyone ever actually have a good time on Valentine's Day? Maybe if you're in the lucky 1% of people who are happily, securely going out with someone, we can see you enjoying the holiday. But if you're going out with someone and things are a little weird, if you just broke up with someone, if you're not going out with anyone, if you have a crush who doesn't know you exist, if you have a crush who knows you exist but isn't sure how he/she feels about you, if you don't have a crush at all, or if you're a human being with any one of a hundred other situations that we haven't mentioned...Valentine's Day can be, well, not so much fun.

The whole thing is just a lot of pressure and a big marketing ploy to sell cards, candy, and red teddy bears, right?

heart.jpgOkay, we're not really that cynical. Valentine's Day doesn't have to be so all-or-nothing. It's one of those things that really is whatever you make of it, and a "valentine" can be so much more than an object of romance. Do you have parents, siblings, friends, or relatives who help you feel the love in your life? And how about being a valentine to yourself? Can you celebrate the things about you that you're proud of, happy with, and maybe even love? Think about how to make the holiday your own.

Once you've done that, hopefully you won't stress over dances and other V-Day events planned at school or in your community. But if you're still stressing, here are some ideas:

  • Go with friends. Even if you have a crush and are tempted to try and go with him or her, take that angst out of the equation. You'll probably have more fun with your buds anyway, and who knows...maybe something natural will happen with that crush once you're there.

  • Have fun with the outfit. Dress in whatever makes you feel good (and comfortable), rather than what you think will impress someone else. You and your friends might come up with some kind of "theme" and coordinate. If you want to make your outfit special but can't afford a whole new getup, buy (or borrow) one cool accessory like earrings or a belt.

  • Dance. That may seem like a big "duh," but sometimes it seems like that's the only thing people aren't doing at these things. Here's an opportunity to just let loose and move. Make a pact with at least one friend that you'll be the first people on the dance floor, and see how quickly others join in. Or make it your mission to get a teacher or other adult chaperone to boogie down. Try to think positively and not so much about what people might think of you; chances are, they're jealous that you're having such a good time.

  • If you can't bring yourself to dance, then do some People Watching. Not so much to gather gossip, but rather, just to learn about behavior. Pretend for a minute that you're an alien scientist come to Earth to study the strange social habits of young humans. Try it; it's pretty fun! 
Share your own advice on our How To Have Fun At A Dance You Said It page, and don't forget to send an IML Valentine E-Card to someone special!


The Upside of Long Distance Friendships


iStock_000001309497XSmall.jpgIt's officially late August -- a bittersweet time of year. Not just because summer's ending and school's beginning soon, but if you're saying goodbye to a friend, it's an extra bummer. Maybe your longtime BFF is moving or attending a different school in the fall; maybe you met some cool new people at sleepaway camp or a summer program, but you live far away from one another. The bad news is, you and your compadre may never have that day-to-day, in-person relationship again (even if you text or email constantly). The good news is, you can still have a strong long distance connection that might bring unexpected bonuses...if you're willing to help make it work. 

Friends in faraway places: How cool is it to have friends in different cities, or maybe even countries? You can learn first-hand, through your friend, how things are different where she or he lives. Arrange for you and your friend to exchange postcards of local sights (or digital versions!) or souvenirs from the area. And just imagine the vacation possibilities...New York City during spring break, San Diego in the summer, maybe even an outing to the Grand Canyon over Thanksgiving! In other words, staying in touch with long distance friends can literally open up your world. 

Improve your friendship: Sometimes having close friendships in close spaces can create tensions of their own. If you've ever shown up to school wearing the same outfit as your best bud, you know what we mean. Oh, the humiliation! And have you and your BFF ever found yourselves crushing on the same person? Yikes! But when your friend is hundreds of miles away, these problems go poof. Long distance friendships can provide a separation that lets both of you live your own lives without getting into too many sticky situations. Plus, getting advice from a faraway friend means advice from someone who might be able to look at a problem with fresh, objective eyes.

Understand that your friendship will change: All friendships change over time, whether it's with someone down the block or across the country. It may feel painful that your BFF isn't around anymore for sleepovers or your closest camp buddy isn't getting your jokes anymore. It might hurt even more when you see her or him making new close friends. Try not to think of your long-distance friendship as "better" or "worse" than the way it was. It's just different, period.

For more advice, check out our tips for Saying Goodbye or what to do When It's A Friend who's leaving.



Boo! It's Halloween 2010!
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halloween_boy.jpgWe LOVE reading about your 2010 Halloween Costumes. IML'ers are so creative! We're sitting here, imagining a runway fashion show of all your dress-up creations, taking note of what's hot in trick-or-treat wear this year.

For instance, Lady Gaga. There's been much debate on the You Said It boards about her and whether or not her songs and videos are appropriate for tweens, but that isn't stopping a lot of you from planning to dress up like the pop superstar. We're sure the real Lady Gaga is thrilled; they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

"Decade" costumes are as popular as ever, and a lot of you are dressing as 60's hippies, 70's disco dudes and dudettes, and 80's new-wavers. Even 50's greasers and 20's flappers will be out there in force again this Halloween. These are fun costumes to put together because you can raid a relative's closet or thrift store for all the makings.

Vampires are huge again this year, but some of you have told us that, despite liking vampires, you don't want to be associated with a trend you don't follow (ahem, Twilight). Our advice: you should never let something you DISLIKE keep you from enjoying something you LIKE. So if you're a fan of bloodsuckers but not the sparkly ones, we suggest you bare those fangs proudly and if someone asks if you're a Cullen, just say, "You kidding? I eat Cullens for breakfast!"

Another trend we really love this Halloween is homemade or improvised costumes! Costumes have become a huge money business over the last decade, and it seems like, year after year, more kids and adults are buying outfits from stores instead of getting creative with what they have at hand. We don't know if it's the tough economic times, or if people are just tired of seeing the same pre-made costumes in every store, but it definitely seems like a lot more of you will be rocking "do-it-yourself" looks this year. Whatever the reason, we at IML really like this trend because, while buying a cool costume can certainly be fun, making your own lets you show just how imaginative you can be at a time of year when imagination rules!

Other popular choices this year include:
  • Nerds
  • Alice in Wonderland (no doubt helped by the Tim Burton movie)
  • Anything with emo, punk or goth elements
  • Cheerleaders
If you're still stuck for a costume idea, here are a few of our faves:
  • Combo costumes. Like "half devil, half angel." Or "zombie cheerleaders" and "dead prom queens." It's fun and easy to take something familiar and kind of boring, then give it a Halloween twist. Make something unique with an existing costume (a great use for hand-me-downs or borrowed ones) accented with lots of scary, gory stuff like fake blood, fangs, pale makeup, etc. For instance, you could buy a simple fairy costume and be an "Evil Fairy" with just a few extra touches!.
  • Pun costumes. Play with words and have fun watching people guess what you are! We love the "Cereal Killer" idea one IML'er posted (a cereal box with knives sticking out of it). What can you do with things like "Pig Latin," "Anchorwoman," "Black-Eyed Pea," and "Butterfingers"?
  • Black to basics costumes. Dress all in black and you'll be surprised by how you can turn yourself into a background for something simple yet hilarious. One IML'er posted about how she's using an all-black outfit and glow sticks to become a Human Stick Figure. Cover yourself in dryer lint and you're Static Cling. Wrap a fake cobweb around yourself, along with some plastic bugs, and you're a Spider Web. Tape socks all over your body and carry a laundry basket, and you're The Missing Sock Vortex. You get the gist!
To get more ideas or to share your own idea, visit My 2010 Halloween Costume.

For many people, coming up with a costume is too much pressure. Can you still have fun on Halloween if you don't dress up or feel like your costume is kinda lame? Well, that all depends on what this "holiday" means to you. It's something you can decide for yourself. If you see it as a chance to get dressed up, "be" someone (or something) else, and exercise your creative muscles, then that's great. If it's just about having fun with your friends and scoring loads of candy, that's great too. Maybe it's more appealing to you to stay home and hand out candy to younger kids. And in the end...it IS just a holiday that will be over before you know it.

Halloween can also be about helping children in other countries who don't have stuff like clean water, nutrition, health care, and education. Chances are, in the past you've done some collecting at Halloween for UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund. Now, UNICEF (and spokesperson Selena Gomez) has more options for young people to give as well as get, like creating your own "Trick-Or-Treat Online" page to collect donations from friends and family over the Internet, or ideas for hosting a Halloween party fundraiser. For more information, check out Trick-Or-Treat for UNICEF.



Advice for Summer Stress
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What? "Summer Stress?" How can there BE such a thing?

familyvacations1.gifSummer's supposed to be a time to let loose, have fun, take vacations, hang with friends and family, and generally enjoy life, right? Well, yeah. That's what the TV commercials will have you believe. But it's not always like that, is it?

Reading through your Advice questions lately, we're reminded of how some things can make summer a less than carefree season for many tweens. You know, things like:

Moving. Your BFF may be relocating with his or her family to a new state. Or maybe it's you who's headed somewhere new. Summer's a big time for this. It's never fun, but there are ways to deal. Check out IML's advice on what to do When Your Family Moves (there are tips in there for when it's a friend who's moving).

Being home alone. You're on vacation from school for a few months, but your parents probably don't get the same break from work. You may find yourself with a lot more solo time in your home than usual. And maybe that's not always a good thing, if you're bored, scared, lonely, or an alternating pattern of all three. Once again, we suggest a visit to our Home Alone section for help, or even just to sound off on the You Said It page.

Family vacations. Ah, the joy of riding in a car or airplane with your loved ones for hours on end. NOT! And then there's what happens once you get there. In between the Kodak moments, a family trip is not complete without arguments, annoyances, mishaps, and possibly some weird relatives too. And yes, we have advice on how to not just survive, but actually have fun amid all the craziness.

Starting middle school or high school. Many IML'ers have already written in to express their worries about moving up to a new school this fall. It's normal to feel some anxiety, especially if you and your best friends are headed to different places, but there are definitely things you can do now to make the jump easier. Check out our advice on Middle School and High School and you're bound to feel a little better...or at least prepared.

Summer camp. If you're an old pro at summer camp, you're probably counting the days until you leave for this year's session. If this is your first year or you're headed for a new home away from home, that can be a little terrifying. Never fear! IML is here with a whole section on Summer Camp.

The purpose of all this? We just want IML'ers to know that it's okay NOT to feel like every minute of summer is pure, unfiltered joy. It's just a time of year, not a break from real life and all its problems. If it seems like everyone else but you is having a blast...chances are, they're really not. But hopefully, with a little information and problem-solving -- whether you find it here at IML or somewhere else -- you can make the best of whatever the summer has in store for you!



 
Opposite Sex Friendships: Part Two
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Last week we looked at how having friends of the opposite sex can be a terrific thing. So what's the problem? Here are some of the obstacles you and your opposite-sex friend might find yourself up against:

The parent trap. Many parents just don't "get" the idea that boys and girls can be friends with each other. Sometimes when kids reach a certain age, parents assume all girls are boy-crazy and vice versa. Suspicious parents might not believe you when you insist, "We're only friends!" This misinterpreting of your relationship can get to be pretty annoying.

Clueless friends. Many same-sex friends aren't any better than parents. That is, if you're spending lots of time with a friend of the opposite sex, your friends and other kids at school are bound to start thinking that something's up. While this doesn't change your relationship with your friend, it can make it a little uncomfortable for you both, especially if your peers decide to tease you and make your life miserable.

Mixed signals. One of the most challenging aspects about having a friend of the opposite sex is that things can get confusing really quickly. You might find yourself analyzing everything your friend does a little differently than you would with your same-sex friends, as in:

  • He's acting more jokey and chummy lately. Is he flirting, or just trying to become better friends?
  • If she calls you more than usual, does that mean she "likes" you?
  • If he asks you to dance at a social event, has the friendship turned into more?
  • Are same sex friends allowed to touch each other -- hugging, arms around the shoulder, cheek-kissing -- the way same sex friends do?
What are the rules? Unfortunately there are no easy answers here. It's different for everyone, so it's up to you and your friend to figure out what you're comfortable with. Even so, things can still get confusing, particularly when it comes to...

crushes4.gifUnexpected crushes. Ah...the biggest obstacle of them all. Even if you've been friends with your opposite sex friend since the day you both ran around naked in the backyard as toddlers, there's always the chance the one day, something in one of you will "click." You might suddenly look at your best opposite-sex friend and realize that he's the boy of your dreams. Or maybe your bud's annoying giggle one day seems like the cutest sound you've ever heard. In a split second, your friendship can turn into a major crush. The history you have together can make these types of crushes even more mixed-up than the regular kind.

So, where does all that leave us? Well...uh...right back where we started, it seems. Opposite sex friendships are common and doable. There are some great bonuses to having friends of the opposite sex in your inner circle. Even when you're facing some tough challenges, don't give up hope. Follow these ground rules, and you'll have a better shot at making it succeed. Hey, all friendships are work, right? Opposite sex friendships are no exception.

  • Don't make decisions about your friendship based on what other people say, do or think about it.
  • Treat your opposite sex friend with the same respect you would your other friends.
  • Appreciate your relationship for the things that make it different from your same sex friendships.
  • Be honest with your friend if your feelings towards him or her evolve from pure friendship to a crush.
  • If things start to get confusing, remember what qualities you enjoy in your friend (loyalty, trust, honesty) and focus on those.
We'd love to hear about your own experiences with this issue; you can post your comments on the Opposite Sex Friendships You Said It page!


Opposite Sex Friendships: Part One
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This week we'd like to talk about a topic we see often on the You Said It pages: Opposite Sex Friendships. All you have to do is take a look at the posts in Opposite Sex Friends to know how they can be great...but complicated. Do you ever ask yourself, like we do, can boys and girls really, truly be friends with each other?

guygirlfriends.jpgFirst, let's look at what friendship is. We define it this way: Friends are people who make us feel good about ourselves, people we can really be ourselves around, and people who will tell us if we have a big hunk of spinach in our teeth.

Seems simple enough, right? And there's nothing in there that says friends have to be the same gender as we are. It really is up to you and your friend to define the relationship. But it's not always that easy, as you probably know.  Chances are, you've had a friendship with someone of the opposite sex that wasn't so black and white. Why is that? Here is probably the biggest reason why opposite sex friendships can be more challenging than same-sex friendships:

One of you might develop a CRUSH on the other!

Yowza! This doesn't have to happen, of course. But it's possible that at some point one of you will suddenly realize that this friend, who may know your secrets and dreams, seen your best and worst, is someone you want to be with in a romantic way. After all, you're already close on so many other levels. Why not just become boyfriend / girlfriend?
 
If this happens, there are a several possible outcomes:

  1. Your opposite sex friend crushes on you, but you don't feel the same. The dynamic in your relationship is changed, and you'll forever wonder if your friend still has a crush on you. Everything is totally ruined.

  2. You crush on your opposite sex friend, but he or she doesn't feel the same. Same as above. Everything is totally ruined.

  3. You both crush on each other at the same time! Yahoo! But after you become boyfriend and girlfriend, it doesn't really work out, and you break up. You can't get the friendship back now. Everything is totally ruined.

  4. One of you crushes on the other, or you both crush on each other. Maybe it will always be a little awkward, maybe you'll go out with each other for a week or a month or a year or more. But whatever happens, you are strong enough friends to work things out. You fight to save the friendship and it survives. Everything is totally cool.

Still confused? Don't worry, we all are.  People have been pondering the question of opposite sex friendships for years, and that's because there are no easy answers. Even though it might seem like opposite sex friendships are more complicated than others, they're also worth fighting for.  If you've got a close friend of the opposite sex, you know that there are some awesome benefits to hanging out with people from "the other side," such as:

Gaining insight. Having a friend of the opposite sex takes some of the guesswork out of day-to-day situations that come up. Not sure how boys really feel about girls who wear makeup? Ask your "boy" friend. Curious about whether girls are more attracted to guys who are buff and tough, or smart and funny? Get the real scoop from your "girl" friend. Having a friend of the opposite sex to fill you in on the in's and out's of being who they are can save you lots of frustration and confusion.

Getting advice from a different perspective. No matter what you're going through -- a tough situation at home, a breakup with a crush at school, being the victim of vicious gossip -- sometimes it can be refreshing to get advice from someone who sees the world differently than you do. Often times, friends of the opposite sex can shed a little light on a situation and give you another way to handle what's going on.

Enjoying different experiences. Hanging out with same-sex friends can be great; you can bond over movie star crushes or shooting hoops at the park. But these friendships can also have their own set of baggage: jealousies, petty competitions, and so on. Chances are, when you and your opposite sex friend hang out, it's much different than your other relationships. Breaking out of that routine can be a breath of fresh air. In fact, sometimes opposite-sex friendships can be less work than same-sex ones because the expectations are different. You might even find you can be yourself in a way you can't be with your usual group.

Next time, we'll look at some of the obstacles of opposite sex friendships and how to overcome them!