A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. (Walter Winchell)
Our teens are likely to experience friendship shifts. Changing friendships is a normal part of teens growing up, particularly as they change from middle to high school environments. There are many different reasons why teen friendships will change. The most common are due to interest changes, personal growth, or not being close enough to hang out more. Although social media helps teens stay in touch with one another if one moves away, the dynamic of the friendship changes as teens find other teens with the same interest. Sometimes these changes are due to drama, betrayal, bullying, peer influence, or picking a bad friend.
Early in our kids’ lives, their friends are initially the kids whose parents interact. As parents we create this friend group, and that works well for a number of years up until they are a teen. As teens grow they will begin to search out friendships entirely on their own. When our teen goes to middle school or high school they will meet new friends. Their schedule will dictate who they see the most and your teen will create opportunities to build relationships with new people and often that means leaving old friendships behind. Those elementary and early childhood friends may not have anything in common anymore in high school and those friendships fade to the background. That is normal, and it is okay. Our teens also form friendships around mutual interests. Think of your teen that plays a sport and how that entire team is a big friend group. The teens all share the same interest and passion for a sport, maybe in a few of the same classes and this creates connection and friendship. Our teens may in fact navigate through a few friend groups as their interests change in middle and high school.
Even though each of these reasons are completely valid reasons to change from one friend group to another or to slowly let go of older friendships, it can be concerning as a parent to watch your child lose or change friendships. Try to hold back your own stress or concerns about their changing friend groups. If you are concerned that your child is having social changes due to drama, bullying, or other problems, initiate a conversation with your teen. Do not judge, probe or push your teen for a reason. Ask easy questions.
A question you may want to ask to open the door for conversation, “I noticed that (blank) has not come around the house in the last month, everything okay?” Your teen can decide how to answer, and you can build on the conversation. Or, “You have been talking about (blank, a new friend), and I just wanted to know how you met.” Now you can understand the connection, and if your teen is navigating any trouble with their friendship, they can ask you. As a parent it is important to listen with curiosity and to not push your teen away. If you are concerned about a friend choice, focus on family values and expectations. Your teen can then apply those values and expectations to the friendship and will reach out to you if needed. It is important to keep the lines of communication open and to let your tee know you trust their judgment and that you are there to listen.
A great resource for your teen is our book on Teen Friendship available on Amazon, One Friend? Two Friends? Good Friend? Bad Friend?