As your child enters the teenage years, friends will become more important. Positive, accepting and supportive friendships are an important part of the journey to adulthood for your child. They can help teenagers learn important social and emotional skills, like being sensitive to other people’s feelings, thoughts, and wellbeing.
Even teenagers might be focused on their friends, they still need your support and help to build and maintain positive and supportive friendships.
Good parent-child relationships tend to lead to children having positive relationships with peers. So, staying connected and actively listening to your child, being warm and supportive can help him develop friendship skills. You will also be better able to support your child if friendship problems come up.
Getting to know your child’s friends shows your child you understand how important these friendships are. All children are different, not all will be outgoing and socialize with a big group of friends. If your child is like this but seems generally happy and content, there is no need to do anything.
When 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. Do not worry, your child 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.
Not all friendships are positive and good for children. Among teenagers, negative relationships are sometimes called toxic friendships and the people in them are called frenemies.
To help your child avoid toxic friendships, you can try talking with your child about what ‘good’ friends are like: they are the ones who look out for him, care about him, including him in activities and treat him with respect. This will help him work out which friends might be good to hang out with.
Encourage your child to have a wide range of friends from a variety of places, like sports or social clubs, school, family friends and neighbors. This means he will have other people to turn to if something goes wrong with friendship.
It is a good idea to give your child the chance to sort out friendship issues himself before you step in. This can help him learn valuable life skills like conflict resolution, assertiveness and problem-solving.
You might feel that your child’s behavior is being influenced negatively by frenemies or toxic friendships. If you feel you need to address this, it is important to focus on the way your child is acting, not on his personality, or the personalities of his friends.
It is best not to confront the other young people involved in bad behavior, or to call their parents. This might only make things worse for your child. But in some cases, like if drugs are involved, you might need to tell the parents or another adult.
Also, avoid criticizing or banning your child’s friends. This might have the opposite effect and make your child feel even more closely attached to those friends.