Great Advice

An Open Letter To Kids Struggling With Friendships, With Love From Allyson Felix

To celebrate Friendship Month, Allyson Felix joins the Romper editorial team for a special open letter with advice for kids back in school after remote learning — as well as a personal story of her own.

Dear kids everywhere,

I remember my school days vividly. My cousin gifted me her favorite Hello Kitty backpack, which in turn became my favorite backpack and I wore it for years. Both of my parents were enthusiastic teachers and always taught us that our childhood would help shape our future and that no dream was too big to achieve. And now in thinking back, my imagination never came close to where I thought I’d be today. For me, the future seemed too far away — I wanted to enjoy the moment.

This kind of uncertainty is a feeling that a lot of kids go through. Exploring the big world around you, navigating your own interests and making friends who share similarities… All really big tasks! But when you take this rite of passage and you combine it with a year halted in time, these tasks start to look like problems. The extended time spent away from your favorite activities or friends really affects how you begin to see yourself and how you fit back in.

When I first tried out, I never thought that I’d travel the world or see my name in newspapers.

Although I didn’t experience a pandemic when I was young, I can still relate to feeling nervous at recess or undecided on who to sit with at lunch. This is where I discovered sports. When I first tried out, I never thought that I’d travel the world or see my name in newspapers. For me, I started running to make lasting friendships and surround myself with other kids who understood me. Popularity and success didn’t come overnight, but the friendships I gained not only built my confidence but it offered a network of kindness and support that I could rely on outside my family.

Here are some of my best tips on finding and fostering friendships. I plan to share these with my daughter as she grows older to help her feel confident in making friends!

  • Find a group with a shared interest. This can be something you love or something you’ve never tried before. Having a common interest with someone is a great basis for friendship.
  • Talk to someone who is alone. Do you see the same person sitting by themselves at the lunch table or in the office break room each day? Chances are they’re looking for people to connect with too.
  • Ask questions! Get to know the people around you and show that you’re interested in learning about them.
  • Don’t be afraid to say yes. If someone invites you to a party or event where you may not know a lot of people, go! Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone to meet new people. You never know what could happen.
  • Spend time with people that build you up. If you’re around a group of people that seem like the “right” people to hang with, but you leave every gathering feeling insecure or not good about yourself, move on. Life is too short to waste on negative influences.
  • Be the kind of friend you want to have. Think about those people in your life that you can always count on: what makes them special? Are they accepting, loving, respectful, good listeners? Lean on those traits — people will naturally gravitate toward your energy and you’ll have a great basis for lasting friendships.

Allyson Felix was recently recognized as the Most Decorated U.S. Olympic Track Athlete after incredibly securing her 10th and 11th Olympic medals in Tokyo. In addition to her many sponsorships, her partnership with global lifestyle brand, Sanrio, came from a very personal place in her heart. For the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, Sanrio welcomed Allyson as the athlete partner for its Team USA collaboration, designed to help inspire the next generation through creativity, sport and play. Hello Kitty, one of Sanrio’s many beloved and iconic characters, also stood as the Global Ambassador for Inclusivity for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Hello Kitty’s honorary title, alongside Sanrio’s brand values for friendship and kindness not only inspired Allyson on the role model she could be for her daughter and generations to come, but this also stood as a reminder on why she began running in the first place.

To celebrate Friendship Month, Allyson joins the Romper editorial team for a special open letter.