Christian Counselor Seattle
Friendships are essential to a teenager during the adolescent years. As a parent, you want your teen to have healthy friendships that are supportive and positive. The friend group is part of your teen’s identity and where he or she gets support both in and out of school. Teens often adopt the language and style of their peer group. It’s a way for them to show which group they belong to and part of their identity. Sometimes teens adopt the emotions of others in their friend group. If your teen is more sensitive or empathetic, they may struggle with taking on their friend’s problems. It may be tricky to tell whether your teen’s struggles are a result of their own experience or byproducts of taking on their friends’ experiences. Adolescents need to develop boundaries in their relationships with friends in order to remain healthy and be a good friend.
Discussing Expectations and Values in Friendships
One way to discover your teen’s boundaries with their friends is to ask “What does a good friend look like?” This will enable you to ascertain their values regarding friendships and relationships. Sometimes teens will expect more from themselves than they do from their friends; asking your teen about what a good friend looks like will help you ascertain whether or not this is the case. After talking through this initial question, ask your teenager about what qualities are important in a friend. Then you can compare their expectations of a friend versus their expectation of themselves in friendships.
Encouraging Positive Shared Experiences
Since adolescents are in the process of figuring out who they are, they are often drawn to other teens who share their interests, feelings or struggles with a specific issue. We all have a desire to be understood and feel a connection with others who know what we are going through, as shared experience helps us feel less alone. Problems can arise when friends share feelings such as sadness or anger; when this happens, both can be brought down together by that emotion. If you notice this with your adolescent, take caution when talking about ending the friendship. Adolescents rely on their friends for support, identity and understanding. Tread lightly in asking questions that might make them feel defensive, and focus more on what your adolescent is getting from the friendship. If there are positive qualities in the friendship, encourage them to focus on those qualities. If you are feeling very concerned, look for evidence to present to your adolescent about the ways that you have seen them change as a result of the friendship.
Healthy Boundaries in Painful Experiences
Some teens think that being a good friend means taking on their friend’s pain. This is an area where adolescents need to learn boundaries about what is their responsibility in supporting a friend through difficulty. If a teen takes on their friend’s pain, they are no longer in a position to effectively help their friend. Talking with your teen about the importance of distinguishing between what is their pain and what is a friend’s pain is an important conversation. Encourage your adolescent’s empathetic heart and talk to them about the limits of empathy.
Getting To Know Friends and Families
Spend time getting to know your adolescent’s friends and their parents. Simply being in the same room with your adolescent and his or her friends can help you get to know them. Make your home a welcoming place where your adolescent and their friends will want to hang out. The kitchen can often be a great place to be while your teen and their friends munch on snacks. It’s important for parents to meet and take an interest in their teen’s friends, as that will help the parent-teen relationship.
Remember to Give Your Teen Space to Be a Teen
If you are feeling concerned about one of your teen’s friends, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and think over what you want to say before you confront your teen. Don’t let your anxiety rule your decision. Recognize your fears for your child and think through your end goal in having a conversation with him or her. Your priorities are to keep your teen safe, healthy and well-adjusted. Give your adolescent the benefit of the doubt that they may have some legitimate concerns for their friend. Encourage them to tell you about those concerns before you tell them that they may need to end the friendship.
Christian Counseling for Healthy Teen Friendships
If you have noticed changes in your adolescent’s behavior or emotions, counseling can be a great place for your teen to think through their beliefs about themselves and relationships. Counseling provides space to identify the teen’s beliefs and how those beliefs are impacting the way the teen is in relationships. Once a teen identifies how they behave in friendships, they can begin to establish healthier boundaries with their friends. At Seattle Christian Counseling, we work closely with teens and their families to promote healthy and supportive friendships.
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