We all want our teens to be able to make friends and build friendships. At times, it’s tempting to go overboard in trying to help them accomplish this. Are your efforts helping your teen win friendships, or are you really doing more harm than good?
High school can be a time when teens feel a lot of pressure to succeed – not only in academics but in social circles as well. As parents, we can teach and guide our teens through the maze of friendships, but where do you draw the line?
Friends by appointment
Younger children need you to act as their social secretary by scheduling play dates. By the time they reach their teens, they should be in charge of making plans and coordinating with friends. If you’re still calling other parents and organizing get-togethers, you need to step back. Nothing is more embarrassing to a teen than feeling like her mom just planned a play date.
Face it – we all make judgments about other people, whether consciously or not. When your teen brings a new friend home, welcome him warmly – without judging his appearance. Parenting expert Michele Borba
, Ed.D. says, "Don’t dismiss your child’s friends without appreciating what it is about them that your child values." If you give your teen the impression that his new friend isn’t up to your standards, you put him in a difficult situation. Wait it out – the teen you judge the most harshly may be the nicest kid in town.
Don’t call the parents
When things go wrong – and they will – repress the urge to call the friend’s parents. Your perception of what’s going on may be totally wrong. Be a sounding board if your teen wants to hash out details, but try and let him solve the problem on his own. If you have worked at teaching your child friendship and problem-solving skills, this is her chance to practice them. Unless there is a true case of your child being bullied or something illegal is going on, stay off the phone.
Be present – but don’t hover
Let your teen know that her friends are welcome in your home – then become almost invisible. Letting them know that there are sodas in the fridge or that you’re making a big batch of cookies is fine. If you hover around her friends and try to be one of the girls, it makes your teen uncomfortable. While it’s important to be friendly, you need to watch your boundaries and remember whose friends they really are.
Land your helicopter and let your teen foster his own friendships.
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