Picking sides at the risk of friendships

The Dilemma

Like most teens, Alexandra has long been accustomed to how high school friendships can shift like sand dunes.

But as she recently discovered, they can also disintegrate like a sandcastle under a wave.

Here’s what happened: Alexandra and her prom date have been invited to a post-prom party by Michelle, whose dad is springing for a limousine.

Ordinarily, Alexandra would jump at the invitation, but there’s one problem: Her friend Holly says they can no longer be friends if Alexandra goes to the party.

Alexandra asks why, and Holly says Michelle has been verbally abusive toward her on the field hockey team. Holly tells Alexandra
to stay silent, arguing that if her
complaint gets back to the coach, Holly will lose her already-limited playing time. She doesn’t want to come across as someone who complains about other players.

Now Alexandra must not only choose between two good friends, but she also must decide whether to betray Holly’s confidence to protect her.

For Discussion

Read the dilemma aloud with your youth, and then discuss these questions:

Is it fair for Holly to put Alexandra in this situation? Why or why not?

Does your answer to the previous question affect how you think Alexandra should respond? Why or why not?

Next, have the youth brainstorm actions Alexandra could take. Aim for at least five possibilities. (These might include going to the party, thus risking her friendship with Holly; skipping the party but making up an excuse; and confronting Michelle and reporting what she’s heard to the field hockey coach or another school official.)

For each possible solution, have the group discuss these questions:

  • How is this solution fair to Alexandra? How is it unfair to her?
  • How is this solution fair to Holly? How is it unfair to her?
  • How is this solution fair to Michelle? How is it unfair to her? (Bonus question: Does it matter whether Alexandra is fair to Michelle?)

Assume for a moment the group thinks Alexandra should not confront Michelle or report what Holly has told her. Discuss these questions:

  • Why do you think Alexandra should not take such an action?
  • What circumstances do you think would warrant her taking such an action?

Finally, ask the youth to describe situations in their own lives when they’ve felt pressure to betray a confidence. Ask them to share how those situations were resolved. 

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