7 ways to help your teen strengthen their friendships

Guy and girl sitting on couch laughing

This can help if you:

  • want to support your teen in making good friends

  • are concerned about the friendships your teen is making

  • would like your teen to have a wider friendship group.

What is the role of friendship for teens?

Parents and friends play different roles in the life of a teen. Where friends will introduce them to new ideas and ways of doing things, you can provide a secure grounding and strong values for their future. Good friends will have a positive effect on your teenager’s self-esteem, their interests and their attitudes, and give them a support network to rely on in addition to their family.

How to help your teenager make friends

Use your own positive experiences of friendship to help guide your teenager. The friends they choose will be their decision, but you can help steer them towards good ones:

1. Talk about the value of honesty

Encourage your teen to make friends with people they can trust and be honest with. Talk to them about how a good friend will:

  • make them feel relaxed and able to be themselves

  • tell them the truth and listen without judgement

  • won’t pressure them, blame them or make them feel anxious.

2. Highlight good qualities in their peers

When you see their peers doing something positive, talk about it with your teen. Explain why you admire this kind of behaviour and also talk about other qualities that build good, strong friendships like:

  • listening and being understanding

  • trusting and keeping confidences

  • supporting and being respectful.

3. Help your teenager to bond with others over common interests

Where you live and what your teenager’s interests are may make this one a little tricky. Here’s some suggestions to help:

  • Find out what clubs, youth groups, sports or school holiday programs your teen can join in your area. If what they’re interested in is hard to get to, see if you can join up with other parents to share transport.

  • Some activities can cost a lot. If your teen’s interested in something that’s free once they have the equipment (i.e. skateboarding, photography, surfing, cycling) see if you can help them get the kit they need on eBay or Gumtree.

  • Encourage your teen to invite friends home to play video games or watch films, if your home situation allows. If they’re reluctant, ask them what’s up, they might be worried about siblings barging in, or not know how to ask. Fairly quick fixes when you know what they are.

4. Support the way your teen likes to socialise

Think about your teen’s character, and encourage them to play to their strengths:

  • If they like settling down to have a good chat, encourage them to arrange going for lunch with someone they like.

  • If they open up more during a physical activity, encourage them to go and do something with a mate like bike riding, hiking or kicking a footy around.

  • These days, there’s huge scope for connecting online with people who share your interests. If your teen finds opening up to others easier over a keyboard, then forums and online gaming can be a great place for them to build their confidence, as long as you check in with them regularly to make sure that they’re safe.

5. Use your own friendships as an example

Be open with your teen about your own friendships and set an example by letting them see how you are with your own friends:

  • Show them how friendship is a two way street that requires some effort and nurturing.

  • Talk about things you have done with your friends and ways you have supported each other.

  • Include your teen in some activities that involve your good friends, like parties, backyard barbecues, and picnics in the park.

6. Support your teen in developing their judgement

Trust your teen and encourage them to develop good judgement through their own experiences:

  • Tell them you’re there for them if they need to bounce anything off you.

  • Tell them that good friendship takes time to develop and to take it at their own speed.

  • Remind them that some people take a while to open up, and to give the quieter ones in their circle a chance.

7. If you're worried about negative influences on your teen

Read up on how to recognise bad friendships for how to spot and deal with negative peer pressure and toxic friendships.

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