By Tanni Haas, Ph.D.
Few things are as important to adolescents’ emotional development and maturity as having friends they can trust. But not all teens are equally good at developing close friendships. What can parents do to help them? This is what the experts say:
teach them about friendship
The first and foremost thing parents can do is teach their teens about friendship. “Parents can and should talk to their teens about what friendships should feel like,” says social worker heather monroe, “and help them understand how to be a good friend.” She suggests that parents ask their teens to reflect on the qualities that are important to them in a friendship, since friendships are more likely to last when teens share similar values. family therapist Cheryl Somers She adds that parents should encourage their teens to reflect on questions like, “How do you let people see what you value, what’s important to you, and who you really are?”
Involve them in extracurricular activities
One of the best ways for teens to find friends who share the same values and interests as them is to get involved in extracurricular activities like school clubs, sports, and volunteer work. “In this way, they can meet people with common interests and provide a springboard for conversation,” he says. Jan Hamiltonthe founder and CEO of Tickets, a youth counseling service. Simply put, extracurricular activities give teens something to mingle and talk about.
Explain to your teens that even if they have common interests with other people, it can take a long time to develop a really close relationship. They learn that every person they meet and like won’t necessarily be their next best friend.
have realistic expectations
Explain to your teens that even if they have common interests with other people, it can take a long time to develop a really close relationship. They learn that every person they meet and like won’t necessarily be their next best friend. Ms. Somers suggests that parents help their teens distinguish between different types of friends, such as “the difference between a friend you sit with in class and talk to, and a friend who really understands and values you.” deb dunham from grown and flown, a popular parenting blog, agrees. She says that parents should teach their teens to be realistic and not expect one friend to meet all their needs: “There are many kinds of friends. Friends to have fun, to trust, to challenge and support you. Know which is which.” Adults know this to be true; teens need to learn this too so they don’t have unrealistic expectations and feel disappointed when they meet someone new.
“Adolescents who have a positive relationship with the adults in their lives are more likely to have good relationships with their peers.
Michael Chambers, Professor
The importance of adult relationships
Encourage your teens to develop close relationships with adults other than you, such as coaches, teachers, and their bosses if they have a part-time job. “Adolescents who have a positive relationship with the adults in their lives,” says education professor Michael Chambers, “are more likely to have good relationships with their peers.” When teens feel the love and support of trusted adults, they develop the confidence to meet new people and develop close relationships with them.
Be an example to follow
Finally, remember that ultimately your teens learn more from watching what you do than from anything you tell them to do. So, be a role model and show them what a good friend looks like. As a clinical psychologist Dr Justin Coulson says, “Show your kids how friendships should work by having good friends around you who are trustworthy, loyal, fun, and share your values and goals.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tanni Haas, Ph.D. He is a professor in the Department of Arts, Sciences and Communication Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College..