Making and having friends is an important of teen development. While it can seem to come naturally to children who are taught to “play well with others,” developing friendships independently can become a challenge over the years. As a parent, you can help your teen understand how to be a good friend and foster healthy relationships by having open conversations with them. Here are a few tips to help you start and maintain a dialogue.
Know what teenage friendships are like
We were all teenagers at one point, but that doesn’t mean your child’s experience with friends will be the same as yours. It helps to know how teens function in relationships today. As kids enter middle and high school, they start to form and maintain friendships on their own, ranging from casual and easy-going to close-knit or drama-filled. The number and closeness of their friendships will vary, too, with some having just one or two good friends and others being part of a large pack. And they can go from “besties” to “blocked” and back again in a matter of minutes.
Give them some freedom
You may have set up playdates for your kids when they were younger but they’ll need to do the heavy lifting as they get older. Often, teenagers end up making friends through shared interests or circumstances, such as sports or sitting next to each other in class. Regardless of how or why your teen has connected with their friends, you’ll need to give them some freedom in choosing who they want to hang out with. It’s important to let your child follow their instincts and heart on which friendships to pursue.
By all means, be available and offer guidance about any issues that may come up with your teenager’s friends. Whether they have an argument, they’re upset about something a friend is doing, or are dealing with toxic behavior like bullying, let them know you’re there to listen and help them handle the situation.
Help them create a foundation of honesty
Honesty and trust are important in all relationships, especially friendships. Teach your child about the importance of being real with their friends while also balancing their need for privacy.
Remind them to embrace forgiveness
No friendship is perfect and sometimes friends end up hurting each other. An apology and forgiveness go a long way. Help your teen understand that good relationships are worth the effort of repairing damage, but others may not be worth saving. In the case of egregious actions like bullying, it’s fine to walk away.
Talk about combating negative peer pressure
Friends can influence each other in positive and negative ways. Discussing the possibility of peer pressure before it comes up can help your teen recognize he signs.
Nurture good friendship skills
Key friendship skills include sharing your true feelings, considering others’ feelings, being flexible, giving time and space to each other, and showing you care. Instill these in your child and they’ll find it easy to make friends.
Know it’s okay to grow apart
While some people maintain friendships throughout life, teens should know it’s also normal for friends to outgrow each other. Whether it’s a move to a new school, changing interests, or different maturity levels, losing a friend doesn’t have to mean anything was done wrong.
Ultimately, healthy friendships are a two-way street. So, remind your teen to focus on the friends who bring something positive to their life and try to be the best friend they can be in return.