In life, human friendships are filled with joys and pitfalls. Most of us can probably even remember a time when we got into a fight with our friends in grade school, leaving us feeling lonely, sad, frustrated or any other mix of emotions. These emotions can become even more amplified if we are a parent watching our teen navigate the high and lows of friendship.
There are numerous factors that filter into how our teens maintain their friendships. First, our teenage years are a time for trying out different identities which means it can become normal for teens to experience a change in friend groups. It also should be noted that in the age of technology it has become easier for teens to connect more easily virtually than in person. The pandemic has unfortunately contributed to this as this was how our teens interacted with their peers for roughly one year of their schooling experience. Adjusting to being back in person has brought to light the effects of this as teens are reporting a struggle with relearning how to interact in person without having a computer in front of them as a barrier. On the same note, online groups can be a place of positive support and allow teens to establish to people who share similar interests that might not be in their everyday social circles.
While it is important to remember and respect the independence and autonomy of our teens it can be helpful to parents to have some ideas of how best to support our teens during these sometimes difficult time in our development:
- Encourage your teen to join a club (at your local community center or through their school). This is a great and fun way for your teen to engage with peers of close age who share a similar interest. Let’s also be honest, this can be a sneaky way to get your teen out of the house!
- Help your teen highlight their strengths! Helping your teen identify and highlight their own strengths helps them boost their confidence. Having an increase in confidence is a must, especially when our teen years are usually focused on their underlying worries and fears of what our peers might think of us.
- Attend local events (within their interest). Have your teen create a list of a couple local events, the Events page on Facebook is a great source. Offer to help your teen coordinate transportation, if needed, and encourage your teen to reach out to a peer to attend the event with.
- Talk with your teen and learn more about why they might be struggling with their peers. Your teen might have some underlying anxieties contributing to their external appearance of distancing themselves from their peers. Talking with your teen can help them identify cognitive distortions and highlight positive reframes when approaching a social situation.
What have you done to support your teen during times when they wanted more friendships?
Blog written by Sentier therapist, Bridgett Brye, MSW