Healthy friendships can help adolescents navigate difficult situations, develop autonomy, become more self-confident and improve their social skills. In addition, adolescents who have healthy friendships are more likely to have improved psychological health as well as better academic performance. (Hair EC, Jager J, Garrett SB. Helping teens develop healthy social skills and relationships: what the research shows about navigating adolescence. Child Trends Research Brief. July 2002.)
The definition and perceptions of friendship are changing because of the pervasive use of social media, so your adolescent may need some guidance regarding healthy friendships.
Ask your teen to think about the qualities they value in a friend.
Remind your teen that not every friend will be a “best friend” – nor should they be.
Discuss how social media has changed the definition of friends.
Limit your adolescent’s time on social media. (Increased time on social media is linked to adolescent depression.)
Continue to practice conversational and listening skills at home.
Discuss conflict as a natural and inherent component of relationships.
Help your teen differentiate significant conflicts from those that do not mean the relationship should end
Demonstrate and practice how to use words that describe the conflict in non-emotional terms. “We disagree on what to do on Friday evening” instead of “You are so stupid to want to go bowling.”
Discuss the signs of an unhealthy or controlling relationship
The individual attempts to isolate your teen from other relationships / other friends.
The individual makes your teen feel guilty for spending time with others.
The individual is often critical of small things – how your teen dresses or food choices.
The individual makes veiled or overt threats. “If you leave me, I will hurt myself.”
The individual seems to keep a score card of everything he or she does for your teen and vice versa
The individual does not respect your teen’s need for time alone or time with the family
The individual wants to know everything your teen does and where she is at all times
The individual talks about “protecting” your teen – often keeping your teen from making her own decisions
STAY CONNECTED TO YOUR TEEN. Remember adolescents are less likely to participate in all high risk behaviors when they are connected to their parents.
See our newsletter on Connected Parenting for additional information.
For information on helping younger children develop healthy friendships