Often, parents think that a teenager’s drive for friendships is a rejection of them.
Unfortunately, this mindset devalues their child’s social connections; also, it misses something basic and natural about the adolescent brain.
Dr. Daniel Siegel clears the air on friendships in his bestselling book, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain.
In this book, he describes 4 major manifestations of the adolescent brain; specifically,
Importantly, these signs are not personal to the teenager; also, they don’t mean anything about genes or parenting.
In other words, a teenager’s friendships are about the brain, not their parents.
Following are the possible cons of these social connections:
- first, not spending any time with adults
- next, too much time with other teens
- some of these teens may be at-risk
- lastly, lack of “adult knowledge and adult reasoning” can contribute to more at-risk behavior
There are pros as well:
- teens are creating supportive relationships
- and, supportive relationships, “are the best predictors of well-being, longevity, and happiness throughout the life span”
- teens are flexing their independence muscles
How do parents nurture the pros of their teenager’s friendships?
Dr. Kevin Leman has a few tips. He is author of, Have a New Teenager By Friday: From Mouthy and Moody to Respectful and Responsible in 5 Days.
- First, invite your teens to socialize with their friends at your house, or otherwise, under your supervision.
- This decreases the chance of at-risk behavior.
- Second, if and when there is a friend whom you don’t trust, and you don’t want him/her in your house, tell your child directly, honestly, and calmly.
- Don’t react to your child’s drama around this; simply stand firm.
- Also, tell your teen that you don’t want him/her around this person outside of home either.
- You likely won’t have much control over this, but at least you’re being consistent.
Other ways to connect with your teens, and support their friendships at the same time:
- Schedule regular meals or other face-time with your children.
- Most importantly, don’t spring this on them, but schedule it in advance.
- Be respectful of their commitments.
- Feel entirely within your rights as a parent to demand time with them.
- When you connect, ask open-ended questions about their friends; for example,
- Who’s your best friend?
- What’s the connection between you?
- What do you value in other friends?
- How do you see yourself as a friend?
- What are the most important elements of friendship for you?
- Share about your friends.
- Be authentic.
- Whatever you ask of your teen about his/her friendships, ask yourself as well, and share this with your child.
- At the same time, be sure that the content of your sharing is appropriate for your child.