Teenagers making friends - can parents help?

three girls talking

You want your teen to have friendships they can rely on. But friendships are something teens need to make for themselves, and for some young people, that’s tough. Your role now is in empowering them to manage their own social lives.

Helping them navigate social situations

Teach them how to have a good conversation

Try and get your teen in the habit of chatting with you about easy topics like music, films or sport. Encourage them to chat with regular people they deal with like salespeople and neighbours, and get them to make their own appointments over the phone. Skills in small talk will be really useful for meeting new people for the first time.

Get them to practise breaking the ice

Breaking the ice with new people can be daunting, so support your teen to trial small icebreakers. Some examples include: contributing to a group conversation at lunch, asking to join a game, or texting a classmate. The more they do it, the easier it’ll become.

Support the way your teenager likes to socialise

Making plans with new people around things they like to do is a good way for your teenager to feel comfortable in a situation that otherwise might be scary for them. For instance, if they’re a chatterbox, encourage them to organise lunch, or if they open up when sweaty, encourage them to do something like bike riding or kicking a footy around. Online is okay too! If your teen finds it easier making conversation over a keyboard, then forums and gaming may be the ideal places to build their confidence.

Help them out where you can

If possible, offer your teenager a lift to help them plan how they’re going to get to things. Encourage them to ask mates round. Maybe suggest a bit of structure to help the conversation flow, like playing a video game or baking.

Help them accept that resolving conflict is part of friendship

When your teen is getting to know someone, everything is new and there can be misunderstandings. Help your teen to think before speaking or messaging – ‘is this how I’d like someone to talk to or about me?’ Encourage them to know when to step back, especially on social media. They can be the bigger person who suggests talking face to face once they’ve had a chance to cool down. Good friendships can weather a few ups and downs!

Helping them make friends

Making friends at school

Most teenagers are spending 6-8 hours a day at school, so that's probably the best place to start. Encourage your teen to try one of the following:

  • sit with a group of people at lunch

  • find somebody who takes a similar route to school and travel together

  • join a sport or club

  • speak up in class

  • follow a classmate on Instagram or add them on Snapchat

  • invite a classmate over after school.

Focus on common interests

See what clubs, youth groups or school holiday programs your teen could join in your area. Some activities cost a lot, so they may be off the cards, but many are cheap or free once you’ve got the kit. See if you can get what your teenager needs with some savvy bidding and buying on eBay or Gumtree. Some clubs also have second-hand equipment in great condition that you can buy. Even if they don’t make friends straight away, seeing the same people regularly will create a natural bond.

Finding meaningful and safe connections online

For some teenagers, making friends in person will be really tough. They can still connect with people over common interests online in places like forums or games. This can really help them build their confidence and get comfortable before diving into the sometimes daunting world of in-person friends. If this sort of thing worries you, check out our topic on technology and teenagers.

Loneliness is a problem that affects many teenagers, but often, with a little bit of support and encouragement from their parents this problem can get better with time. Just as teen’s minds and bodies develop as they grow up and enter adulthood, their social skills develop too.

Did you find what you needed?

  • I need to know more – Read our factsheet on friendships.