The friends program, is an evidence based program with 20 years of research which has been conducted both locally and overseas. This program has shown that we can effectively decrease anxiety and depression within children. The FRIENDS Programs also aligns to teach positive thinking, resilience, self-regulation, social skills and empathy for others.
The letters for F.R.I.E.N.D.S each stand for something taught in the program, both by teachers and by parents at home.
- I CAN TRY
- DO IT EVERY DAY
- STAY HAPPY
F, is all about identifying what your feelings are. The feelings are categorized into 4 main feelings, happy, sad, angry and worried. The children are taught that all feelings are ok, it’s what you do with the feelings that count. Example, if you are angry, some positive things to do are, riding a bike, drawing and punching a punching bag. However, some negative things to do with those feelings are saying cruel things to others, or hurting them or their belongings.
The other aspect of feelings is how to identify what other people are feeling, example looking at their behavior and facial expressions. This lesson also touches on being nice to others, and how to treat them depending on what they are feeling.
R, talks about relaxation skills. The children are taught many aspects of relaxation. In primary school they are taught to take deep slow breaths when they are nervous, and how to relax their muscles. The children are also taught that when they are feeling a stomach ache or have a headache etc that nothing is wrong with you and it’s your bodies way of telling you that you need to relax and take nice slow breaths and/or drink a glass of water.
Once the children are in older primary school they are taught mindfulness (a brief meditation). In the letter R they are also taught how to do attention training. This means engaging with their 5 senses on all the amazing things surrounding them. This can be done at home and during class time.
I stands for I can try. This lesson is all about motivation and stopping unhelpful thoughts. Unhelpful thoughts are thoughts that make you get worried and scared and wanting to give up as well as helpful thoughts that make you feel confident, strong and wanting to take on challenges. The children are taught how to turn unhelpful thoughts into helpful thoughts.
E stands for encouragement. This lesson is about breaking down big tasks into small little steps, known as a “step plan”. A main objective is given, example being able to talk in front of the entire class. This goal would be then broken down into smaller steps, such as talking in front of the mirror, followed by talking with family or some close friends, eventually leading to the main objective.
N, stands for nurture. This lesson is all about taking care of yourself and others, and giving rewards. A reward could be as little as telling yourself you are happy with yourself and the recent effort you have put into your work.
D, practicing what you have been taught. Like a language, these lessons improve the more you practice them, and practicing outside of the group is essential. This is why it’s so important, that family, friends and teachers know about the program you have been doing, even after you have finished the friends program.
S stands for stay happy. The final lesson is usually a party of some sort, for the younger children, a dress-up party. The children love this last lesson, as it is a reward for the great effort they have put in for the last 12 weeks, and will continue to put in for the rest of their lives!