June 8th is Best Friends Day. This is the day to celebrate that extra special person that you can depend on any day, any time. You laugh with them, you confide in them. A best friend will validate your good decision, honor your feelings and tell you when you’re going in the wrong direction.

They may be your partner, your spouse, your sibling, someone you’ve known forever or someone you met recently. You may have 1 or you may have multiple. It doesn’t’ matter. However they came into your life, they are there to stay.

But how does one become a best friend? Is there a difference between ‘friends’ and ‘best friends’? Do you remember your childhood best friend? Are they still in your life? And what about your kids? Do they have a best friend yet? Today we’re going to talk about the difference between a friend and a best friend.

The Early Years

My first best friend was Justin. We were kind of best friends out of circumstance. You see, our parents were very close friends as they had met through our older sisters who went to school together. Add that in with the fact that Justin was born 17 days after I was and voila. Best friend material.

We did EVERYTHING together for the first 5 years of our lives. We were either with my mother, or his mother, or at school, but it didn’t matter where we were, as long as we were together we were fine.

At the age of 5 I moved and started at a new school without Justin. We remain friends to this day, but at that young age, my new best friends became those that I saw at school every day. So, what exactly makes someone a best friend?

The Best Friend

The definition of a best friend is literally, your closest friend. It’s individual that you value above other friends in your life, someone you trust, confide in and have fun with. Developing a strong relationship like this can be challenging. In order to truly be a best friend, you have to be vulnerable enough to allow a person to see you at your best and at your worst.

In general, a best friend cheers you on, knows and loves your flaws, sits with you in the embarrassing times and reassures you that they too have experienced similar circumstances. They call you out on your not-too-flattering behaviors, trust you and know that you trust them. A true best friend loves you for you and doesn’t abandon you in the tough times. Some people wait until they are adults to find a person they consider to really be a best friend, because as a child or teenager it is just too hard to be that vulnerable.

The Childhood Best Friend

Around the age of 4 or 5 a child is likely in preschool or daycare, spending extended periods of time with other kids. It’s at this time that they  begin building meaningful relationships with classmates, kids in daycare or kids that are involved in other activities they chose to participate in. Ultimately, a child will most likely be drawn toward the other kids that like the same things they do. They bond over sports, hobbies, participating in dance or gymnastics or even activities as simple as riding bikes.

At a young age, a child will likely go through a myriad of friends. One day Suzie will be your daughter’s ‘best friend’. Then, a week later Jane is now her ‘best friend’. Younger children typically have a variety of friends that fill particular ‘boxes’ of their lives. They’ll have their school friend, their athletic friend, their family friend and so on and so forth.

Adolescent Best Friend

As a child ages, their interests become more defined and their activity participation becomes more focused. Adolescence is the time when a child’s brain goes through significant changes, for example the begin to understand the concept of abstract thinking (you know, that there are more colors then black or white…they learn all about those many shades of grey). Teens are striving for independence, questioning everything their parents have ever told them or done and are looking for someone that just ‘understands’.

It’s often through these teenage angst years that you’ll see a child find a best friend. They may have had close friends throughout childhood, but suddenly, that best friend arrives – the one person that a teen will share everything with. This friend knows what they are going through, because the friend is going through it too. They ‘get’ them. They understand. Gradually the distinctions between the friend and the best friend become apparent.

Stages of Friendship

When you think about it, friendships don’t just happen. It’s rare that you meet someone one day and suddenly you are best friends the next. There are actually 4 distinct stages that a friendship goes through prior to really considering someone a best friend.

  1. Acquaintance

This is where all friendships initially begin. This is the person that you meet somewhere or through someone that you know very basic public information about. You know, the information that everyone knows about that person. You may bump into them, interact with them, but you don’t yet consider them a friend.

  1. Peer Friend

This is what develops when you begin to realize that you and your acquaintance have common interests, activities and concerns. You learn a little more about each other; you share what your goals are, you find out what their opinions are. These are people that you start seeing a bit more frequently and decide to spend some additional time with.

  1. Close Friend

These are people that have moved beyond peer friendship to become a member of your inner circle. You share values with them and they know many things about your personal life. These are the friends with whom you have experienced both ups and downs. They are the ones you choose to spend most of your time with.

  1. Best Friend

This is the individual that you have built up the strongest level of trust with. You could, and often do, share almost everything with them. This relationship takes time to develop…it doesn’t just happen overnight. This friendship involves a commitment. Time, experience, shared values and loyalty are what make this friendship a special one.

The difference between a Friend and a Best Friend
  • A friend will typically be complimentary, but a best friend will give you honest feedback.
  • A friend will call/text you often, a best friend will call/text every day.
  • A friend may give advice they think you want to hear, a best friend will give advice they know you need to hear.
  • Friends can be fair-weather, loyal one day but not the next. A best friend highly values loyalty.
  • Friends cannot and will not always keep your secrets. A best friend will.
  • Friends may not be there in the hard times. Best friends are always there in the hard times.

Having a best friend is a wonderful gift. As much as people change, true best friends will never disappear. They will be there through all phases of life; to celebrate, grieve and experience with you. And ultimately, you know that you are a better person for having known them. 😉