Empowering Parents: Mastering Teen Friendships with Trust and Open Communication
Written By : Daniel Currie
Published On : 2/5/2024
Like most parents, we prioritize guiding teenagers toward success and happiness. However, when it comes to their friendships, our desire to protect them can sometimes unwittingly backfire. We may find ourselves trying to control who they spend time with, believing we know what's best for them. But the truth is, the more we try to control their social lives, the more we create a wedge between us and our teens. Rather than being seen as a trusted confidant, we risk becoming the enemy. Keep reading to discover the secrets to avoiding this common pitfall.
Most parents have realized that there are essential parenting dos and don'ts when raising teens today. One of those "parenting dos" is acknowledging that our teen's choice of friends is ultimately their own. Trying to interfere can damage our relationship with them.
Suppose we humble ourselves and relinquish control over who they can hang out with and who makes them happy. By doing that, it will be possible to maintain a prosperous, dynamic, and trustworthy relationship with them. Furthermore, building a strong foundation filled with trust and open communication will empower our teens to make promising decisions and come to us for guidance when needed.
It's not easy to let go, but it's one of those essential "parenting dos" to further enhance our teen's growth and development. Ask yourself, do you love your teen? Of course, you do. Do you trust your teen when push comes to shove (on the serious stuff, within reason and given their limited wisdom)? If you answer "yes" or at least "mostly," your teen is raised on a solid set of morals and clearly knows right from wrong. This should be your comfort in an uneasy time. Regardless, when you understand your teen knows their rights from wrongs, it becomes the time to begin thinking about accepting their choices.
Trust in Teen Friendships
Accepting our teen's preference of friends is not about agreeing with every decision they make but rather about respecting their autonomy and trusting them to make the right choices. When we begin showing our teens that we support and love them no matter what, we create a safe space where they can be themselves. This can lead to stronger relationships, better communication, and happier, more confident teens. So, let's love our teens like crazy, trust them to make their own decisions, and prioritize our relationship with them above all else.
We all agree that letting our teens know we love them unconditionally is vital for growth and support. Ensuring your teen understands that you trust their friend selection is essential, too. It will help them feel supported and empowered in their social relationships.
Let your teen know that you have confidence in their ability to make good choices regarding their friends and that you are there to support them if they need help or guidance. This message can help your teen develop a sense of independence and responsibility in their friendships while knowing they can come to you for support if needed.
Check in with them regularly. Continue having open and honest conversations about their friendships, offering guidance and support as required. By keeping open communication, you can help your teen develop strong, positive relationships that will support them now and for the rest of their lives. Having heart-to-heart discussions can be essential, but getting to know your teen's friends and their families is a good idea, too. Doing these things ensures our teens have a safe and supportive social environment.
Nevertheless, worrying can still be easy even when our teens are in the ideal friendship scenario. One way to reduce some of the anxiety is to entice our teens and their friends to want to be at home with us, where we can oversee any situation. Opening our homes as safe, loving, and fun places where our teens' friends are always welcome can help foster positive relationships and create a sense of community.
Encourage your teen to invite their friends over and make them feel welcome in your home. Provide a comfortable and inviting space where they can hang out, watch movies, play games, or just relax without the parental hovering. Ensure your teen's friends feel valued and respected and know they are always welcome in your home, even if your teen isn't there currently.
It is important, though, to establish clear boundaries and rules for behavior in your home. Let your teen and their friends know what is expected of them while they are in your home, and enforce these rules consistently and fairly. This helps create a safe and positive environment where everybody knows what to expect when they visit.
On the flip side, as parents, it's easy to fall into the trap of blaming teenager's behavior on their friends. We mustn't do that; consider it a "parental don't." When that happens, we end up labeling other kids as "bad influences," believing that our child is simply going along with the crowd. There are two problems with that. First, when our teens hear or sense this, they will begin alienating us. They realize we openly lack their trust and disrespect their feelings and decisions. Next, quite frankly, our teens are their own people, with their own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs—they always have a choice in these situations.
Simply put, our teenagers are responsible for their behavior. When we start blaming their friends for their decision-making, we absolve our teens of wrongdoing. In addition, we begin to undermine their ability to take responsibility for their actions. When raising teens today, it becomes vital to ensure they can take responsibility for their actions; otherwise, what are we doing as parents?
Regardless, it's important to remember that our teen's friends are not the sole determining factor for their behavior. We must look at the bigger picture and acknowledge that our teens are complex individuals influenced by various factors, not just friends. By doing this, we help them develop a strong sense of self and encourage them to take responsibility for their actions, attitudes, and behaviors without blaming others.
It is also noteworthy to remember that our teens are at a stage in their lives where they are exploring their identity and forming new relationships. If there are any specific concerns about your teen's friends, it's important to have an open and honest conversation with them, expressing your concerns.
Communicate, Don't Dictate
When voicing your concerns, being curious and asking well-thought-out questions can help your teen self-reflect and better understand their friendships. Encourage your teen to share their thoughts and feelings about their friendships and ask open-ended questions that allow them to explore their own experiences and perspectives. Some good questions to ask might include (specifically in parenthesis):
What do you like about your friend (that makes them unique)?
What kind of activities do you and your friend enjoy doing together (that forge a special bond you have trouble finding anywhere else)?
How does your friend make you feel (that stands out compared to other friends or peers)?
What qualities do you value in a friend (specifically)?
Have you ever had any conflicts with your friend? How did you handle it?
Do you feel like your friend (honestly, at their core) supports you and your goals?
Are there any red flags or concerns you have about your friendship?
Remember to listen actively, without judgment, and provide support and guidance where needed and when asked. By asking good questions and showing interest in your teen's friendships, you can help them develop strong, healthy relationships and navigate any challenges that may arise.
Set the Standard
Another essential "parenting do" is to have clear expectations and rules when it comes to your teen and their friends. This can help establish boundaries, promote positive behavior, and ensure your teen's safety. Sit down with your teen and have an open conversation about your expectations and rules. Ensure they understand the reasoning behind them and the consequences of breaking them.
As parents, we do not want to become rigid either, unwilling to compromise, causing our teens to feel their decisions and feelings are belittled. We must be flexible and open to compromise as our teens grow and change. Encourage your teen to communicate openly with you about their friendships, telling them they can always turn to you if they have any concerns or issues. By working together and creating a supportive environment, you can help your teen navigate their social relationships in a healthy and positive way.
Be open and communicative with your teen and their friends. Let them know that you are available to talk or provide support if they need it, and encourage them to come to you with any concerns or issues. By creating a supportive and welcoming environment, you can help your teen and their friends to develop positive relationships and feel supported in their social lives.
Catch Up, and Read On!
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