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Expanding Your Social Circle

Developing Friendships

Adapted from Making and Keeping Friends: A Self-Help Guide by Mary Ellen Copeland, M.S., MA., published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, SMA-3716

A friend is someone who —

  • you like, respect, and trust, and who likes, respects and trusts you
  • doesn’t always understand you, but accepts and likes you as you are, even as you grow and change  
  • allows you the space to change, grow, make decisions, and even make mistakes 
  • listens to you and share with you, both the good times and the bad times
  • respects your need for confidentiality so you can tell them anything 
  • lets you freely express your feelings and emotions without judging, teasing, or criticizing 
  • gives you good advice when you want and ask for it, assists in taking actions that will help you feel better, and works with you in difficult situations to figure out what to do next   
  • accepts your self-defined limitations and helps you to remove them 
  • lets you help them when they need it
  • you want to be with, but you aren’t obsessed about being with
  • doesn’t ever take advantage of you

Strengths and Qualities of Good Friends
Everyone brings special qualities to friendships—qualities that make friendships richer and stronger. The following is a list of some of these qualities:

  • being independent and self-sufficient
  • being positive, upbeat, and warm
  • talking about others in a positive way
  • being honest and dependable
  • doing your share of both the talking and listening
  • being respectful of the other person’s feelings
  • keeping yourself clean and well-groomed
  • accepting your individual differences
  • listening closely without interrupting
  • being nonjudgmental
  • giving the other person plenty of “space”

What strengths do you bring to your friendships? What strengths do your friends bring? Is there anything you think would help strengthen your friendships?

Is this friendship a good idea? Sometimes it is better to avoid getting closely involved with a person or to end a friendship. You may want to stop being friends with a person who:

  • shares personal information about others
  • does all the talking and not listening
  • violates your boundaries
  • puts others or you down
  • teases, ridicules, or taunts friends and family
  • lies or is dishonest
  • wants you to be their friend only or want you to spend all your time with them
  • wants to always know where you are and who you are with
  • doesn’t want to be seen with you in public
  • is clingy or very needy
  • talks about sex or personal matters in ways that make you uncomfortable
  • asks questions that make you uneasy
  • asks for risky favors
  • engages in illegal behavior
  • is physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive

Before you end a close friendship
You may want to talk about the troubling behavior. If the person stops doing it, you may be able to continue your friendship. To help you decide if you want to end a friendship, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this person always this way or just this way once in a while?
  • Is this person having a hard time right now that might be affecting their behavior?
  • Are you having a hard time right now that may be affecting your feelings and the way you see things?
  • Do you often enjoy this friendship or do you sometimes feel hurt?

You may be tempted to pursue a relationship with someone even though the person treats you or others badly. However, most people agree it is better not to have a certain friend than to have a person treat you badly. If the things another person says to you or does to you make you feel hurt and the person won’t stop doing those kinds of things, he or she is not your friend. It is always your choice whether or not to be friends with another person. Reach out to others for information and advice, but the final decision should always be yours.

When life circumstances make friendships difficult Sometimes losing a friend can’t be helped. Factors over which neither of you any control can make it difficult to remain friends. Some of the issues that may get in the way:

  • changes in where you live or go to school
  • illness, stress or other fears
  • poverty or lack of money
  • differences in expectations
  • changes in needs and interests
  • lack of transportation

It is important to acknowledge these difficulties, but don’t give up on the friendship if you don’t want to! These factors are challenging, but not impossible. Some factors must simply be accepted—such as distance, and others you can work on changing—such as fear or overwork. Using all of your creativity, write five possible ways to resolve this difficulty. If you can’t think of enough ideas, ask a friend for suggestions. Then try doing one or more of these things.

Managing Social Situations

Meeting New People
Excerpted from 5 Ways to Shake Shyness

It's perfectly OK to take time to warm up to new people and situations. But shyness blocks some people from being as comfortable or sociable as they'd like to be. Here are some tips for overcoming shy feelings:

  1. Start small with people you know. Practice social behaviors like eye contact, confident body language, introductions, small talk, asking questions, and invitations with the people you feel most comfortable around. 
  2. Think of some conversation starters. Often, the hardest part of talking to someone new is getting started.
  3. Rehearse what to say. When you're ready to try something you've been avoiding because of shyness — like a phone call or a conversation — write down what you want to say beforehand. Then just do it.
  4. Give yourself a chance. Find group activities where you can be with people who share your interests. Give yourself a chance to practice socializing with these new people, and get to know them slowly.
  5. Develop your assertiveness. Being assertive means speaking up for yourself when you should, asking for what you want or need, or telling other people when they're stepping on your toes.

Read more…

Rejection and How to Handle It
Excerpted from Rejection and How to Handle It

Rejection hurts. But it's impossible to avoid it altogether. In fact, you don't want to: People who become too afraid of rejection might hold back from going after something they want. Sure, they avoid rejection, but they're also 100% guaranteed to miss out on what they want but won't try for. The better we get at dealing with rejection, the less it affects us. So how can you build that ability to cope?

  • Be honest. If you get rejected, acknowledge it to yourself. Notice your feelings, name them, and notice how intense they are. Tell someone else.
  • Be positive. Admit how you feel but don’t dwell on it.
  • Examine your thought soundtrack. When you give yourself an explanation, be careful to stick to the facts.
  • Keep things in perspective. Think about what you’re good at and what’s good about you. Give yourself credit for trying.
  • Use rejection to your advantage. It could help nudge you in a direction that turns out to be the perfect fit for your relents, personality, and all the really great things that make you who you are.

Read more…


Excerpted from Bullying Is a Big Problem

Bullying is when a person is picked on over and over again by an individual or group with more power, either in terms of physical strength or social standing.

Some bullies attack their targets physically, which can mean anything from shoving or tripping to punching or hitting, or even sexual assault. Others use psychological control or verbal insults to put themselves in charge. For example, people in popular groups or cliques often bully people they categorize as different by excluding them or gossiping about them (psychological bullying). They may also taunt or tease their targets (verbal bullying).

This article covers:

  • Who bullies?
  • What can you do?
  • What if you’re the bully?

Read more…


Excerpted from Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. Online threats and mean, aggressive, or rude texts, tweets, posts, or messages all count. So does posting personal information, pictures, or videos designed to hurt or embarrass someone else.

Cyberbullying also includes photos, messages, or pages that don't get taken down, even after the person has been asked to do so. In other words, it's anything that gets posted online and is deliberately intended to hurt, harass, or upset someone else.

This article covers:

  • What counts as cyberbullying?
  • Virtual acts, real consequences
  • Why do people do it?
  • What to do
  • If a friend is a bully

Read more…

Standing Up to Cyberbullying
Don’t respond or forward cyberbullying messages but do keep the evidence! Block the person. If it involves threats of violence, sexually explicit messages, photos that violate privacy, or stalking and hate crimes, report the activity to law enforcement.

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