Teens and Peer Relationships: Helping Kids Navigate Friendship
May 02, 2019
As your child moves into his or her teenage years, you may see a shift from them relying on you or another trusted adult, to looking for support from their peers. This can be a big milestone as your teenstarts making more independent decisions.
Your teen will seek advice from their peers often and will want to do what their friends are doing. They can and will be easily influenced at times. Since the decision making part of their brain isn’t fully formed, and won’t be until they are in their 20s, they may not always make the best choices.
Helping your teen think through things or prompting them to make decisions on their own, without the influence of friends, can encourage the development of healthy and positive peer relationships. This, in turn, can improve their outcomes in school, the community and at home.
So how do you help your teen pick a positive peer group? Here are some tips:
Understand that your teen wants to be accepted by their peers.
Avoid distractions that take away from your teen so they know they are your priority when you are talking with them. For example, leave your phone in another room, or put it on silent.
Be nonjudgmental, even when you have a lot to say!
Talk with your teen about their friends, creating a safe space for dialogue.
Use open-ended questions when talking about the peer group, such as “What are some positive characteristics of ____? What are some negative ones?”
Help your teen explore the type of friend they want to be. Use phrases that get them thinking such as, “I wonder what type of friend you’d like to be.”
Use empathy. Figure out what emotion your teen may be feeling and verbalize it: “Wow! That must have been so frustrating when ____ did that.”
Acknowledge and praise your teen and their friends, when they make positive choices. Be specific. “I’m so proud of you for being honest with your friend about how those actions hurt you.”
Set limits if you have to, especially if you feel your child could be in danger or they or their friends might be breaking the law.
Parenting isn’t easy and takes dedication. Being supportive of your teen through open dialogue can helpyour teen develop into a socially healthy individual who knows how to make informed decisions.
For more information about children’s mental and behavioral health, visit OnOurSleeves.org.
Sarah Sohar is a Clinical Lead Supervisor for the Behavioral Health School Based team. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling 10 years ago and has been working with children and families since. She has a passion to help people grow and also enjoys volunteering in the community.
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