Knowing that teen friendships are hugely important, it’s beneficial for parents of tweens, teens, and adolescents to be proactive. 

It’s awesome to know your teens’ friends. Use every opportunity to get to know them that comes your way, or that you create: 

  • Have them around at your house
  • Offer to drive
  • Keep quiet while you’re driving
  • Stock the pantry & freezer with easy-to-make teen food (think oven chips, pizza bases & toppings)
  • Insist they clean up after themselves!
  • Keep your opinions of their friends firmly to yourself
  • Save their phone numbers in your phone

Effectively, you are creating a way into your teens’ life by taking the time to get to know their friends. And you want their friendships to run smoothly.

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, they won’t run as smoothly as you’d like. But, what if the problem wasn’t your teens, it was you! 

Here are The Top Seven Mistakes Parents make when Managing Teen Friendships:

#1: Over-involvement 

Some parents become too involved in their teen’s friendships, trying to dictate who their teens should be friends with or how they should interact with their friends. This is annoying! Would you like to be micromanaged about your friends, sometimes in front of your friends? Constant over-involvement can lead to feelings of resentment. 

Set your boundaries clearly, e.g. no vaping at my house, and concentrate on enforcing them. 

Parental over-involvement can also lead to your teen constantly second-guessing themselves which does lead to a lack of self-knowledge and self-trust.  

#2: Underestimating Peer Influence

Our adolescents are biologically programmed to push away from their comfort zones, to push back on what they know is safe, and to look for new people who make them feel good about themselves. 

Peer influence is real. It’s huge. For a teen, their peers are everything! Their friends will be their reason to live and they will have an enormous influence on your teen’s behavior, attitudes, and decision-making. 

Ignoring or dismissing the importance of peer relationships can interfere with a parent’s ability to support their teen effectively.

#3: Lack of Communication

When we miss opportunities to communicate openly and honestly with our young people about friendships it leads to misunderstandings and creates a negative cycle. Think about the times we’ve let a comment go that, in hindsight, would have dramatically changed the outcome. As you and your teen become enmeshed in not talking deeply there will be even less opportunities for guidance and support. 

Creating a safe space for their teen to discuss their friendships and express any concerns they may have is an essential part of parenting your young person. Check in by asking them questions like, “How do you feel about (name of friend)?” 

It’s important to note that this conversation is an opportunity to listen to and to hear your teen’s opinions – not as an opportunity to share your opinions … Keep these firmly to yourself!

#4: Ignoring Red Flags:

It’s one thing for teens to have friends and another thing for teens to have friends who are unhealthy or toxic. 

Ignoring changes in your teen’s behavior or emotional well-being after they spend time with a friend is ignoring a red flag.  It is important to pay attention to these red flags and intervene if necessary (think boundaries) to protect your teen’s well-being.

#5: Being Friends with Your Teens’ Friends

Keep in mind, these young people are your young person’s friends, not yours! It’s great to chat with them and to get to know them. Remember not to cross the line and become part of their friendship group.

#6: Imposing Our Own Social Agenda

Let your teens choose their friends. There is nothing more awkward than having to be friends with someone because it’s an expectation. 

These are their friends. If they’re not suitable, set a boundary. And leave your preferences out of it. 

A good friendship will reflect in your young person’s uniqueness.

#7: Failure to Set Boundaries

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries! Have the difficult conversations the moment you need to so you can establish and enforce appropriate boundaries around your teen’s social interactions, such as setting limits on screen time or curfews. 

Without clear boundaries, teens have a much higher chance of engaging in risky or unhealthy behavior.

Growing happy, healthy teens is hard yet rewarding. 

Effectively managing teens’ friendships means striking a balance between offering guidance and support while respecting their autonomy and individuality. 

Juggling open communication and attentiveness to your young person’s needs and concerns with a willingness to intervene when necessary will ensure their well-being and keep your relationship strong. 

Make sure you sign up for the Empowerment Triangle Workshop, running on March 24 at 9 am. Use this link to register.