There are many things to be gained by having relationships with people in multiple age groups. Some of these benefits include gaining different exposure, perspectives, and outlooks on various subjects. Personally, I love my friends who are in my grade, but I really enjoy spending time with those who are older than me (predominately my sister’s friends). It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly I like about it, but I feel that surrounding myself with people who are older than me makes me feel more mature, and simultaneously gives me a great outlet of people to seek for guidance and advice.
Whether they be older or younger, you will be surprised by all of the things you can learn from people who see life slightly different than you do. So while initially you may not feel totally at ease having a conversation with your neighbor who’s in college or one of the kids you babysit, that’s okay; oftentimes, awkward encounters are necessary to move forward in a friendship. But if you may be questioning why exactly it’s so great to befriend people of different ages, here’s a few reasons quench your question.
1. Expand your topics of discussion.
Though this definitely isn’t true in all situations, oftentimes high schoolers repeatedly talk about the same things: school, grades, college, friends, etc. And while all of these things definitely need to be discussed, it’s nice to take a break and learn about other people and what’s happening in their lives. And in order to relate to others’ experiences that you might not necessarily understand firsthand, it’s totally acceptable just to inquire and listen to what they say. Remember: conversation doesn’t always have to come from both ends, and sometimes the best friend is the best listener.
2. Get advice, or give it.
My older friends are truly the greatest when it comes to giving me wisdom and advice. Seriously, they’ve “been there, done that” about most of the things I am currently going through, and are genuinely there to help me through high school and any other teenager-struggles. Though many of my older friends and I are in “different phases” of our lives (high school vs. college), we are definitely close enough in age where they can remember how they handled specific situations and counsel me through them. Similarly, you can help any younger friends you may have in a like manner. I went on a trip to a music camp in Slovakia this summer, and there I befriended a girl who is a junior in college and another girl who is a freshman in high school. Though I am three years apart from each one, I was able to form a special bond with each, one by asking advice about my future, and the other giving advice for hers.
3. Treat him/her as you would treat anyone your own age.
You may wonder how you can even begin a friendship with someone you wouldn’t ordinarily jive with, and the answer is simple: act as if he/she is no different than a friend in your grade. Despite how cliché it sounds, the expression “age is but a number” is so true–people who have things in common will find a way to discuss these commonalities and become friends, regardless of any age difference. The concept of being “not mature enough” or “too mature” for a friend is quite nonexistent. The fact of the matter is that if you would like to form a friendship with someone, he/she will respect the things you have to say, and vice versa.
The next time that you are presented with an opportunity to bond with someone out of your normal scope, take the opportunity—and don’t even ask his/her age when you’re getting to know one another!