As your child becomes a teenager, friendships will become more important to them. They enjoy spending time with their friends and having fun, but friends become almost like a personal support group during adolescence.
Friends give teenagers a sense of belonging and security, a feeling of being valued, and a way to experiment with different identities, roles and values. Who knows, these friendships may eventually lead to their first relationship, which is another big milestone. As a parent, you want your teen to build healthy friendships they can rely on. It can be difficult to see your child struggling to make friends, or encounter problems in existing friendships.
Helping your Teen Build Friendships
Social skills – teach your teen how to have a good conversation. Get into the habit of chatting about topics they find interesting, whether it be TV shows, music or sport. Learning how to make small talk will be useful when it comes to meeting new people.
Support them – not everyone likes to socialise in the same way, so if your teen prefers to socialise over a yummy meal, during a walk or online, support that. Remind them that a good friendship takes time to develop, and show support if they are experiencing problems with their friend.
Encourage them to spend time with friends – if your child is asking to have a friend over after school, say yes. When the friend is over, be welcoming and friendly, and ensure siblings don’t barge in on them.
Get into the community – encourage your teen to volunteer or find a part-time job. Working in a place with other young employees or volunteers can help your child find friends and build job skills for the future.
Go through your own experiences – think back to your own teenage years. How did you make friends? Did you encounter any problems during those friendships? Explaining your own experiences to your teenager can give them a bit of insight.
Where to Make Friends
School – this is an obvious one. Most teenagers spend at least six hours per day at school, so it’s a great place to start.
Extracurricular activities – an after-school activity can help your teenager meet others with similar interests, whether it be dance, sports or an art class.
Clubs – many schools offer a variety of clubs, usually meeting after school or during lunch breaks. Common options include those in STEM, music or visual art. Your child’s school may also offer a yearbook committee or book club.
Online – given that they are being safe while they are online, internet friends can be great for your teen. Forums, online gaming and social media groups can help your teen find friends online.
All these sudden changes in adolescence can be just as confusing to your child as they are to you. While teens gravitate more towards their friends during their teenage years, remember that they still need you; even if they don’t necessarily show it.
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