Friendships are funny things and even for us, as adults, they can be complicated. Teen friendships can be super hard to navigate and it’s hardly any surprise.
Right from the early years when your child first begins socialising with others you naturally wish for them to be liked, have friends and enjoy the company of others. And when friendship difficulties arise… as they inevitably do… it’s near impossible to not feel heartbroken for your child, no matter what their age.
The social skills a teen develops during their adolescent years will be carried through to adulthood and friendships play a crucial role in developing these skills. Sadly though, making and maintaining healthy friendships isn’t easy for all teens.
Teens, girls in particular, take their friendships very seriously. As a bystander, you might see some friends come in and out of favour, but to your teen each in their circle is a BFF. Until eternity… or until there’s a Facebook fight, which ever comes first. As a parent your best bet is to go with the flow, be there and just listen. Don’t be offended if your teen doesn’t want to listen to your clear thinking and reasoning if they’re in the midst of a friendship meltdown.
If you know your teen has a solid and stable group of friends, be thankful. Yes, there will most likely be shifts and realignments in even the strongest of friendships circles, but if all is relatively drama-free… blessings can be counted.
When all’s said and done, by the time your darling has reached the teen years there’s not much influence you can have over their choice of friends. Transitioning from primary to high school is a time when the playground changes, your teen’s new pals are likely to be strangers to you and there may be cause for concern about attitudes and influences.
Regardless of how old or mature your child is (or isn’t), I believe you should make it your business to talk with them about friendships and peer groups.
- Learn about their friends – ask about names, interests, families and how the friendship is going. Unbelievably, your teen actually wants you to be interested.
- Welcome their friends into your home and encourage it – it’s easier to know what’s going on when they are under your roof.
- Make an effort to meet the parents of your teen’s friends – don’t be shy about calling to introduce yourself as “so-and-so’s” mum (or dad) and I guarantee in the majority of cases they’ll be pleased for the contact.
- Be consistent with your teen and remain true to your family rules and values despite what their friends may or may not be permitted to do. It’s very likely that your teen may try to play this, but standing firm is key and will earn the respect of their friends too in the long run.
- Monitor from afar and step in if you feel your teen is being treated unfairly or seems to be uncomfortable with a friendship – support them to opt-out of a friendship if it’s unhealthy.
Just remember that being by your teen’s side is how you can best help them navigate the roller coaster ride of friendships!