Here’s how you can help your teenager make healthy friendships…
Friends play an important role in our lives. Friendships are especially important to children and teenagers who seek the approval, love and guidance of their peers in almost all aspects of their day-to-day lives. As parents, we encourage our children to form friendships and enjoy watching these relationships flourish and evolve as our child matures. We ride the inevitable ups and downs of friendships and fallouts alongside our teen until they finally find their ‘people’. Healthy friendships boost self-esteem and happiness, which is why they’re so crucial for mental wellbeing.
It can be concerning when your teen doesn’t have this kind of bond in their life. Perhaps your teen once had a close friendship which has sadly come to an end, or maybe they find it difficult to forge new relationships. Every child is different. While some kids have no problem chatting to their peers and making bonds, other kids struggle to make and maintain friendships. Your child might need a little extra support and guidance when it comes to making friends and that’s OK. We’re here with five top tips to help your child find their way to friendship!
1. Encourage Hobbies & Interests
Try to encourage your teen to engage in an activity or hobby that involves other kids who are a similar age. Lots of teens like to hole themselves up in their bedroom and spend their time online or gaming but this isn’t the best way to meet new people or find potential friends. You could encourage them to sign up for a local sports team or enrol them in an after-school club where they’ll be able to mix with other kids who share their interests. The social interaction involved with team sports and clubs will help to improve their confidence and offers lots of opportunities to make new friends.
2. Talk About What Makes A Good Friend
Chat to your teen about what qualities make a good friend. Discuss the importance of being able to be yourself with your friends and feeling comfortable in their presence. You can talk about how good friends will always have your back and support you when you need it most. Friends should be understanding, respectful and trusting. It can also help to talk about what makes a toxic friend to help your teen spot potentially damaging or negative relationships – you can learn more about toxic friendships here.
By learning about the difference between solid and toxic friendships, you’re helping to steer your teen in the direction of healthier, happier friendships.
3. Support Your Teen’s Strengths
Look at your teen’s personality and character strengths and help them to use these to their advantage. For example, if your teen loves animals and has a caring nature, you could encourage them to volunteer at a local animal shelter or charity where they’ll learn new skills and improve their confidence levels. It’s a great opportunity for them to meet new people, too!
Feeling awkward or self-conscious is a big part of being a teen and it can be difficult for them to see their own values. By reminding them of their unique qualities, you’re boosting their self-esteem and highlighting that they have something truly special to offer in a friendship.
4. Boost Their Social Skills
Talking to new people can be scary, especially for teens who are shy or introverted. Making conversation with others can be incredibly daunting and even a source of anxiety for some people. Helping your teen master the art of small talk can reduce some of this anxiety and make it easier for them to start up a conversation. You can try role-playing to encourage your teen to practice asking open-ended questions and expand on their own answers. Find more advice on how to make small talk here.
5. Be A Supportive Ear
Sometimes, despite your teen’s best efforts, their attempts to make friends may be fruitless. This can be upsetting and knocks their confidence but unconditional love from you can help to ease the pain. If your teen has some social weaknesses, gently guide them without judgement. They will find their way in the end, especially with your love and support.