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Helping teens form real friendships

For teenagers, friends mean everything; however, some teens change friends (or groups of friends) on a whim, loving a friend one day and hating her the next. These come-and-go peers aren’t real friendships. Help your teen form and recognize stable, healthy relationships that can last a lifetime.

Teen girls hanging out in living room

1Talk about respect.

Teens should choose friends based on common interests, not on popularity or social standing. Being part of the most popular group is not always what it’s cracked up to be. The pressure to keep up in these groups can be overwhelming, while the rewards can be few. In real friendships, one of the most important factors is respect. Teach your teen that lasting friendships involve people who understand and respect each other. Friends take responsibility for one another, solve problems together and respect one another, even if they have differences.

2Model positive behavior.

Don’t expect teens to value friendship if you don’t. If you have toxic friendships in your life, get rid of them. You shouldn’t expect your teenage daughter to ditch a one-sided friendship if you aren’t willing to do so. It’s not about quantity (despite what it seems in high school); it’s about quality. Having even just one or two solid, real friendships is better than having a bunch of acquaintances she can’t count on.

3Help boost confidence.

Boost your teen’s self-esteem and put him in a position to thrive and succeed. Throughout childhood and well into his teens, help your child discover activities that he enjoys and at which he excels. By keeping your child involved in activities — from academics to athletics to the arts — you’ll put him in contact with peers of similar interests, ideally leading him to form friendships and improving his self confidence.

4Open your home.

Support your teen’s friendships by making your home a welcome place for kids to hang out. Encourage your teenager to invite her friends to your home. This will allow you to keep an eye on her without really interfering. You’ll be able to know where she is, what she is doing, and who she is with. If you see a particular friend or behavior that worries you, talk to your teen (when she is alone) about your concerns. Reiterate your family’s moral values and social guidelines. You aren’t going to talk your teen out of being friends with someone; however, you can explain what you think about negative influences or low moral standards and how they can affect her future. By helping your teen make positive friendships, you’ll see peer pressure affect her in a good way.

Organize events at your home for your teens and their friends. Everything from study groups and band practice to board game parties and make-your-own pizza night can be a positive experience in which your teenager can develop friendships.

Over time, healthy friendships thrive, develop, change and grow. A real friendship is about respect, honesty and unconditional love. The friendships that teens form in high school can last a lifetime, enduring the worst and celebrating the best — together.

More tips for parents of teens

How to help teens adjust to a new school
What to do when a teen loses a friend
How to boost your teen girl’s self confidence

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