Particularly in adolescence, friendships become increasingly important and can often ‘make or break’ the school year.
These peer relationships are vital in adolescence, and we can’t overemphasize the impact it has on our children. During this time, teens are trying to assert their independence from parents, while peers now become a more significant source of social and emotional support.
Friendships give teenagers: *
- A sense of belonging, a feeling of being valued and help with developing confidence
- The sense of security and comfort that comes from being with others going through similar experiences
- An opportunity to share the changes that puberty brings, and what’s going on physically and emotionally
- A way to explore different values, roles, identities, and ideas
- A social group to do new things with and have new experiences outside of the family unit
Not all children, though, find it natural or easy to make friends. You may observe that your child is not making peer connections or they may reach out to you with concern.
There are some things you can do to help:
- Think about your child’s interests and strengths. Explore new extracurricular activities for your teen or encourage them to join a club, sports team or social group. Mixing with people who share similar interests is a great way to start friendships and build confidence.
- Help your child plan an activity with friends. Sometimes they just need a little ‘push’ or guidance. This could be simply watching a movie at home or having a sleepover.
- Think about a part-time job or volunteer community activity. Working, particularly in a place with other young employees or volunteers, can give your child a chance to practice social skills as well as building job skills for the future.
- Encourage them to strike up a conversation with new people. Teach them how to ask questions to get to know someone and share of themselves as well.
- Have your teen spend time thinking about the qualities that are important to them in friendship. Identifying what they value in a friend will help them make choices about the people they spend time with.
The peer group is essential, but also your guidance and monitoring of activities are needed for your child to be safe and successful.
As children grow, friendships take on new meaning. Parents who develop communication and stay actively involved with their teen provide a foundation for broader conversations in their future lives. This support will sustain them as they start to rely on friends, and as issues of concern inevitably arise during their school year.
*Adapted from raisingchildren.net