How To Support Your Teen's Friendship Struggles: Practical Solutions For Parents

The teenage years are a time when our children strongly start asserting their independence. And one of the ways they do this is by turning their attention away from parents, and prioritizing friendships. 

As they venture out, exploring different facets of their lives, and try to figure out their identity and what they stand for, it can get a little tough for parents to let go of the reins and take a back seat. 

While that is important, it doesn’t mean that as parents, we stop being the safe lighthouse of support for our teens. 

The connection and support parents can offer to their teenagers during these rough years lay the foundation for the quality of friendships and relationships they go on to build in their lives. 

So, how can you as a parent support your teenager in choosing the right friends? Below are some practical tips and strategies.

Practical Strategies To Help Teens In Their Friendships

Don’t Judge The Way Your Teen Socializes

It’s important that as parents we don’t judge our teenagers for the ways they choose to hang out and socialize with their friends. Even when you don’t agree with them, it’s okay to let them be, and find their own way, as long as they aren’t being rash or unsafe with their actions. 

Highlight The Strengths You See In Their Friends

When you notice something positive in their friends, make sure to point out those characteristics. Our teens gain strength from the way we show support for them, and one of the best ways to do that is to appreciate the good things we observe in their friends. 

Support The Ways They Are Comfortable Socializing

Whether it’s hanging out with a neighborhood friend, engaging in a shared interest or activity, or through online gaming, show up as a supportive figure in the ways they feel most comfortable socializing. It’s one of the best ways to deepen your connection with your child.

Encourage Them To Make Decisions - And Trust Their Judgment

If you control the choices your teen makes, it makes it difficult for them to develop their own skills. Instead of controlling their decisions, consider using powerful questions to guide them instead. 

Use Collaborative And Proactive Approach To Solutions

Consider ditching the traditional model of parenting where the parent dictates what their children should or shouldn’t do. Use a more collaborative approach where you can engage your teen in an active and supportive dialogue that helps them develop emotional regulation and executive functioning skills. 

How To Help Your Teen With Friendship Drama

No matter how intentional we’re being with guiding our teenagers through their friendship challenges, they may still land up in different friendship dramas. Sometimes, they themselves might be the cause of such dramas. Let’s accept it: it’s a part of the teenage years. 

To support you in these situations, should they arise, here are a few Do’s and Don’ts:


Use Your Active Listening Skills

Listen with complete attention, without interrupting them. Using verbal cues as you listen, such as “hmmms” or “ahas” helps show that you are engaged and present. 

Curiosity and Compassion

Start by getting curious, and ask open-ended questions such as “What happened next?” or “How did you feel when that happened?” 

Then, follow up with compassion – show them that you understand what they’re going through, and that you are equally concerned. Showing up with empathy helps them know that you’re there to support them no matter what. 

The next step is to try and understand what your teen really needs from you at this time. Asking your teen “How would you like me to help?” opens the doors to collaboratively  brainstorming ideas about what could be done, and encourages reflection on possible outcomes. 


Don’t Solve The Problem For Them

If you catch yourself gearing up to rush to the school or dial another parent’s number, it’s a cue to pause and step back. By solving the problem on their behalf, you deny them the chance to develop problem-solving skills. It also implies a lack of trust in your teen’s capability to navigate such challenges autonomously.

For instance, if your teen is having a conflict with a classmate, resist the temptation to immediately step in and resolve it for them. Instead, guide them through the process of resolving the conflict on their own, offering support and advice as needed. This approach fosters independence and resilience in your teen, equipping them with valuable life skills for handling similar situations in the future.

Don’t Make Judgmental Comments About Their Friends

It’s not helpful, and only puts you in a false position where your teen might think twice about opening up to you the next time they need support with their friendships. 

Don’t Force Them To End A Friendship

Ending a friendship is a very difficult process, and it should be up to your teen. Of course, you can always ask guiding questions about how they want to feel in their friendships, and whether a particular friendship is meeting their needs and expectations. 

Don’t Ignore Bullying 

Never ignore bullying of your child. Encourage them to learn how to set strong boundaries with their peers, and navigate such challenging situations. 

Don’t Assume That They Are Always The Victim

Asking open ended questions will help you get a fuller picture of the particular friendship drama they’re sharing about. This guides you to make a better call with respect to how you show up in that conversation. 

Your Role As A Parent

It really is difficult as parents to watch our kids go through tough times with their friends. 

The key however lies in recognizing that it is not our job to carry them on our shoulders over the bumpy friendship roads, but rather to walk alongside them as a guide. 

That’s how our teens learn to make the right decisions, trust their judgment, and forge deeper friendships. 

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