Friendships are vital during teenage years. Positive, accepting and supportive friendships are a crucial part of the journey to adulthood for your child.
Teenage relationships with peers support the development of compassion, caring, and empathy. Furthermore, adolescent friendships are a big part of forming a sense of identity outside the family.
Why teenage friendships are crucial?
We all know that having good friends makes us happier. Research shows that teen friendship is related to psychological well-being. Teenagers with friendship networks had better mental health. As they felt a sense of belonging, these teenagers had more positive feelings about their relationships with other people in society.
For teenagers, good friends can be like a personal support group. They play an important role in helping your teenager deal with stress or trauma.
Friends and friendships give teenagers:
- a sense of belonging, a feeling of being valued and help with developing confidence
- a sense of security and comfort that comes from being with others going through similar experiences
- information about the changes that they will experience in puberty and what is going on physically and emotionally
- a way to experiment with different values, roles, identities and ideas
- experience in getting along with people of the opposite sex
- a chance to experience early romantic and sexual relationships
- a social group to do new things with, especially things that are different from what families do.
Help your child build friendship skills
As children enter adolescence, teenage friendships become increasingly important. Parents sometimes feel they are being ignored or abandoned by their children, who seem to be focused on their friends instead. But teenagers will still need your help and support to build and maintain positive and supportive friendships.
Good parent-child relationships tend to lead to children having positive relationships with peers. So being warm and supportive, staying connected and actively listening to your child can help him develop friendship skills. You will also be better able to support your child if friendship problems come up.
Be a role model
Being a good role model is important too. Parents who are keen to spend time with their friends are more likely to have children with lots of healthy friendships. It is also imperative that your child sees you looking out for your friends and showing that friendship is a two-way thing.
Help teenagers having difficulty making friends
All children are different. Not all will be outgoing and socialise with a big group of friends. If your teenager seems happy and content, there’s no need to do anything.
If your teenager has trouble making friends and is worried about it, there are a few things you can do together:
- Think about their interests and strengths. Look for new extracurricular activities for your child. Mixing with people who share similar interests is a great way to start friendships and build confidence.
- Spend time with extended family and family friends. Plan a barbeque or outing where your child can spend time with people who already know them.
- Help your child plan an activity with friends. They could watch a movie at home, have a sleepover or have a baking afternoon. They could play some sport.
- Make sure your child feels comfortable inviting friends home, and give them plenty of space when they do.
- Consider a part-time job or volunteer community activity. Working, particularly in a place with other young employees or volunteers, can give your teenager a chance to practise social skills as well as build job skills for the future.
Get to know their friends
Getting to know your teenager’s friends shows your child you understand how important these friendships are. You can do this by encouraging your teenager to have friends over and giving them a space in your home, or giving your child’s friends a lift home after social outings.
Try to work out if any particular issues are making it difficult for your child to make friends, like lack of opportunity, lack of particular social skills or lack of confidence. Then think about ways you can work on these. You might want to ask for professional advice for complex issues.
Give your teenager lots of praise and encouragement to build self-esteem. Try not to pressure them about friends or constantly discuss the situation.
Understand the balance between friends and parents
Teenagers spend less time with their parents and much more time with friends. Some parents worry that these intense friendships will take over and friends will become more important than family.
But your teenager still needs you and the secure base you provide. Being interested and available lets your child know that he can turn to you when he needs to. As your child gets older and more mature, you might also notice they are giving you some support too.
What teenage friendships look like
During the early teenage years, friendships become more intense, close and supportive. The amount that teenagers communicate with their friends increases.
Teenage friendships are usually based on personal similarity, acceptance and sharing. Same-sex friendships are the norm during the early adolescent years. As they get older, though, many teenagers also make friends with the opposite sex.
Generally, girls tend to build closeness through conversation, and boys often prefer to share activities. Many boys enjoy in-depth conversation and many girls enjoy just hanging out and doing stuff together.
Teenage friendships help young people understand that they are not alone. As a result, they recognise that others feel the same emotions, insecurities, fears, and anxieties. Therefore, they realise that their feelings are normal and common.
Teenagers do share a lot with and copy a great deal from their friends. For example, teenagers might change their behaviour, appearance or interests to show that they belong to a specific group of friends. These changes are usually just experimentation. As long as they are not doing anything destructive or dangerous, the changes are a positive sign. They show that your child feels supported and confident enough to try something new.
Technology and Teenage Friendships
Today’s teens make friends online, as well as in real life. A report from the Pew Research Center found that 57% of teenagers ages 13 to 17 have met a new friend online. Moreover, nearly 29% of teens say that they have made more than five friends on social media or via online games. Girls make more friends on Instagram and Facebook, while boys make more friends playing games on the Internet.
However, most online friendships don’t develop into face-to-face friendships. Only one in five teens have met an online friend in person.
In addition, teenagers keep in touch with their real-life friends through social media. According to the same Pew report, 70% of teenagers say that social media helps them stay better connected to how their friends are feeling. Moreover, 68% of teenage social media users said that their online communication with friends helps them get through stressful and challenging times.
Talking to Teens About Friendships
Parents can’t choose their teenagers’ friends and they can’t control their friendships. But parents can and should talk to their teens about what friendships should feel like. You can help your teenager understand how to be a good friend.
Parents Still Matter!
Parents and friends play different roles in a teenager’s life. You influence your child’s long-term decisions to do with values and morals. Your child’s friends are more likely to influence short-term choices, like appearance and interests. Strong relationships with both parents and friends help teenagers grow into well-adjusted adults with strong social skills.
Therefore, the priority is to maintain closeness and communication between parents and teens. Knowing their friends and respecting their friendships is key.
In conclusion, teen friendships matter—a lot. They play a significant part in growing into adulthood. But no matter how important their friends are, the significance of teen relationships with parents can never be underestimated.
References: Our reading list for this article
Disclaimer: This article is largely based on and quotes from the following:
- Unknown (n.d.). Friends and friendships: pre-teens and teenagers. Raising Children Network. Retrieved 29 Jul 2021 from Raising Children Network website: https://raisingchildren.net.au/pre-teens/behaviour/peers-friends-trends/teen-friendships
- Unknown (n.d.). The Importance of Teen Friendship Child. Retrieved Mind Institute. Retrieved 31 Jul 2021 from the Newport Academy website: https://www.newportacademy.com/resources/empowering-teens/teen-friendships/
- Lenhart, A. (2015 August 6). Teens, Technology and Friendships Retrieved 30 Jul Jul 2021 from The Pew Research Center website: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2015/08/06/teens-technology-and-friendships/
- Unknown (n.d.) Friendships and teenagers. Retrieved 30 Jul 2021 from the ReachOut Parents website: https://parents.au.reachout.com/skills-to-build/wellbeing/friendships-and-teenagers