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How to Support Your Teen and Their Friendships

Posted by on Jul 1, 2020 | Comments Off on How to Support Your Teen and Their Friendships

How to Support Your Teen and Their Friendships

When you were younger, who were your best friends? Can you picture them? Some of these people may still be in your life. Some you get glimpses of as you scroll through Facebook or maybe you haven’t seen or talked to them in years. 

These friendships are an integral aspect of growing up and may have been sources of fun, memories, support, and growth. 

Friendships we had as youth also introduced challenges. Entering middle school, you faced gossip, bullying, and relational aggression. At times, your friends were standing beside you navigating the challenges of the school hallways, and other times those same friends were the ones spreading gossip and doing the bullying. 

As adults, it is imperative we have open conversations with the youth in our lives about their friendships. These friendships set the stage for decisions youth will make in the future surrounding substance use, peer pressure, body image, and boundaries/expectations in their relationships. 

Be available for conversations: Teenagers are notorious for not wanting to talk about their friendships, relationships, and other happenings at school with the adults in their life. Take the opportunity when a teen reaches out. If you are in the middle of dishes or a work assignment, drop what you are doing if possible, and give your teen your full attention. This shows support and validation. If it is not possible for you to drop what you are doing at that moment, let your teen know you want to talk and when you are available. Most importantly keep your promise and do your best not to reschedule. It can be challenging for a teen to reach out and be direct about their needs. Some signs your teenager may be wanting to talk are: 

  • They are spending more time near you, but don’t say anything. 
  • They casually mention a problem at school, but then change the subject. 
  • They offer to run errands with you. 

Check Your Bias:   It is natural to have our own feelings about our time in middle school and high school.  However, we don’t want to allow those feelings to be the sole guide of how we navigate conversations about friendships and relationships with our teens. Check in with yourself and check your biases toward your teen’s friend group. Sometimes sharing your own personal experiences can be helpful, and a great way to build trust and relatability with your teen. Before you share your own experiences with friendships reflect on the next few questions:

  • Will sharing this experience benefit your teen?
  • Why are you sharing this experience? 
  • What were your friendships like in middle school and high school? 

And ask the right questions:

  • Avoid asking yes or no questions. 
  • Keep questions open ended and specific. 
  • Be direct. If there is something specific you want to know, then ask directly. Teens have the uncanny ability to tell when we are avoiding a specific question.
  • Respect when they do not want to offer an answer or talk about a specific subject.  
  • Schedule a time where you and your teen can meet weekly and get coffee, run errands together, play games, etc. This can be a great way to normalize conversations without any of the added pressure to talk about anything specific. 

Listen without judgement: We do not have to understand what the youth in our lives are going through to offer compassion and support. Give your teen space to share what is on their mind while offering guidance on how to navigate challenges within friendships and their school culture. Collaborate with your teen when discussing challenges at school and with friends. By collaborating and guiding them you are teaching valuable problem solving skills and validating their experiences. 

Discuss Friendship Bill of Rights and Responsibilities: A Friendship Bill of Rights and Responsibilities is something you and your youth can discuss together. Ultimately, it is a guide of expectations you have for friendships. This is a time where you can guide your teen to recognize what is important in a friendship and what it means to be a good friend. Learn more about creating a Friendship Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.