The importance of friendships during adolescence

Two girls laughing in park with arms around each other

Friendships are important to teenagers on many different levels – from being a support network to providing both positive and negative influences. Learning to start, change or maintain friendships is a skill teenagers all need to learn and work on. As a parent, taking the time to understand how your child is experiencing their world, and knowing how to remain connected, can help them to navigate these relationships successfully and independently.

This could help if you:

  • want to understand why friends play such a big role in your child’s life

  • think your child might be in a bad peer relationship

  • would like to know how to engage with your child’s friends

  • would like to help your child be a better friend

  • need more information about the qualities of a good friend.

Why are friends so important to my child?

It’s important for teenagers to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance from their peers. Friendships can be a network of great support and can offer protection against negative peer relationships such as bullies. Learning positive friendship skills can help them socially so they feel happier and more confident. So it’s good for your child’s happiness to be a great friend to someone and to have a group of good friends supporting them.

It’s also important for you to understand and respect that, during their teenage years, your child is figuring out who they are beyond the family. Shared interests, attitudes, social struggles and being in circumstances that may resemble their own are some of the reasons young people will reach out and find comfort in close connections with friends. These connections can help your child learn about trust, respect, acceptance and intimacy, which will be important concepts for them to understand as they enter adulthood.

How can I help my teenager become a good friend?

The most important thing you can do as a parent is to be a positive role model for your child. By demonstrating how to build and nurture strong friendships yourself, your teenager will learn from you. This could include:

  • Being proactive in connecting with friends

  • Being warm and friendly towards others

  • Being actively interested in other people

  • Listening actively

  • Supporting friends through tough times.

What if my child has difficulty making friends?

All children are different. Some will naturally make a lot of friends and have a large social circle. Others will depend on a small number of intimate friendships. However, if your child is struggling or it’s affecting their everyday life, there are things you can do to help your teenager make friends.

Read Things to try: friendships for more ideas on how to support your teenager to have positive and supportive friendships, and also be a supportive friend themselves.