Friends. These are our team members on a sports team or a classmate or even members of a study group. We know them but don’t tell them everything.
– Desiree Panlilio
Some teens create childhood friends and those close bonds stand the test of time. But in today’s fast world we often find that as families we move around for different career options, and our teens find it necessary to make new friends. Friends have many levels. The deepest of friends know alot about your teen and the trust is high in that relationship. Other friends are the ones your teen may hang out with because they play the same sport or they are “assigned” to work on a project together. These friendships may not be as close and the focus is more on the sport, the assignment, or the study group. All friendships have value and not all friends can fulfill each of our roles. Your teen may play a sport and those friends are part of that role. Your teen may also have an extracurricular activity which may be a sport, art class, or music class, for example. The friends in these groups may be friends and they may be acquaintances depending on the decision of your teen.
What is important is to talk to your teen on what your teen values in a friendship. As a parent it is also important that you share what you value in the friendships that you have. One of the words to discuss with your teen and friendship is trust. Trust what does that mean in a friendship? How do you know if you can trust a person you are getting to know? Some teens offer a test of trust, but is that really honorable? If your teen is to do that, can the other person really trust your teen? How would you feel if you were given a test to see if you are trustworthy? It is a topic to discuss with your teen. The other topic to discuss with your teen is boundaries. What are boundaries? Boundaries keep friendships balanced and help friends know what is okay and not okay to do or say. Boundaries need to be clear, consistent, and respect the feelings and needs of both people in a friendship. An example may be, “I’m cool with following each other on social media, but not with sharing passwords.” It needs to be specific for your teen, and as a parent it is our responsibility to have the conversation and help your teen to discover and articulate their boundaries.
It is a great time to share with your teen what your boundaries are and how you share those boundaries with your friends and what you do when they cross a boundary. Our teens are developing friendship skills and how to evaluate friends and friend groups. It is a learning process and most certainly our teen will make mistakes and friend the wrong group or person. What we want to make sure is that our teen does not share “personal” information too early and too much with a person until they are sure that they want to. Information once shared can not be taken back, but it can be used to hurt your teen or make the other person gain popularity by sharing information that they were not supposed to. Like you, I wondered why would my teens share some of the information that they did. The answer is that your teen is looking for acceptance. They are looking for a friend or a group of people to be a part of. The most important thing to all of us is to have friends, people we connect with and want to be around. Your teen is growing the skills to discern between a good friend, bad friend, and what it means to have boundaries and trust in a friendship. All of us want to belong and have a support group and your teen is not different, but they are trying out different groups and behaviors until they find the one that matches them and makes them feel comfortable. During this journey, your teen needs coaching, mentoring, and positive role modeling. If you want support for this journey I encourage you to purchase our book on Amazon, One Friend? Two Friends? Good Friend? Bad Friend?: Teen’s Guide to Creating Lifelong Friendships. Our book will allow for the conversation to be initiated by sharing and discussing the information found in the book.
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