The BEST Advice To Help Teens Navigate Friendships

by | May 15, 2021

Helping Your Kids Have Healthy Friendships In The Digital Age

If you are wanting to help teens navigate friendships in 2021, you have come to the right place!

Parenting today is no easy task.

There is so much to take in! 

Are you stressed out because your teens or tweens are having trouble with friends? 

Do you even know who they’re hanging out with or texting? 

It may seem like you need a road map for this friendship thing in your teen’s or tween’s life. Everything seems so complicated! 

  • What is he even doing at 11:00 at night on his phone? 
  • Who is she talking to on snapchat? 
  • Why is my daughter having so much drama with kids at school she doesn’t even see? 
  • I hate smartphones! 
  • Raising teenagers in the digital age is driving me crazy! 

These may be some of the thoughts that have swirled through your mind at one time or another. 

Completely fair. 

Raising kids these days is not for the faint of heart. 

It’s rough at times, requiring much wisdom and prayer. 

And at the end of the day, kids will be kids, and we can’t save them from all the friend drama they may encounter. 

Even though we may not be able to save them, we can certainly do our best to set them up for success. We can teach them how to navigate their friendships and value people over devices. 

I want to share with you 5 effective ways to help teens navigate friendships. 

These tips can also be applied to our tweens (10-12 years) as well!

As you go through this list I hope you will be encouraged and challenged in your own parenting, and come away with some great ideas! 

I’ll share the list first, then go into detail with each idea. 

Happy Reading! 

How can I help my teenager navigate friendships?

  1. Conversation: Spoken words vs texting 
  2. Common Interests: Have fun together
  3. Close Friends: Quality vs quantity
  4. Compassionate and Kind: Positive interactions
  5. Committed: People over phones

Let’s dive in and learn and grow together! 

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help teens navigate friendships

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1. Conversation: Spoken words vs texting

Don’t you feel like everywhere you go people are looking down?

And not at the road or where they’re going, but at their phones! 

Walking and texting, eating and texting, even driving and texting. It’s nuts! 

These silly phones are literally attached to our bodies, and it seems that at times they are our own worst enemy. 

This generation of kids is growing up not knowing the value of actual conversations with people. 

Kids and teens are communicating and connecting through devices more than in person. 

The pandemic has not helped this problem at all, only exacerbated it! 

Check out these crazy smartphone statistics taken from a recent survey on slicktext.com:

infographic about technology's impact on teenagers

Some Obvious Standouts From This Infographic

  • Rather than in-person interaction, 33% of teens spend more time socializing with close friends online.
  • 52% of teens sit for long periods of time in silence, on their smartphones, while hanging out with friends. 
  • 89% of parents take responsibility for their child’s cell phone usage.

The smartphone addiction is seriously out of control!

We as parents need to step in and help, not contribute to the issues!

How do I help my teen want to talk to their friends vs only texting? 

Great question. 

Encourage your teenager to communicate with their friends by hanging out face-to-face or talking on the phone.

Both of these are ways of promoting good conversation.  

Having healthy conversations is also something that can be practiced at home, especially around the dinner table

Make sure you have a no phones rule at the table

Ask good questions during meals, and give each child a chance to answer. 

Practice good eye contact, good listening, and make sure to not interrupt. 

These are all great skills for healthy conversation. 

As the parent, model good active listening to your kids. 

Protect these meal times with your family. 

If your teenager is struggling in their friendships, make a point to check in with them:

  • Are they spending time face-to-face?
  • Does your teen mostly text his/her friends? 
  • Read through their texts (this is totally allowed!) to make sure conversations are appropriate
  • Promote hangout time without phones

However you handle the situation, don’t be afraid to check in and be the parent (or bad guy). 

Let your kids know how much you care. 

When in doubt, pray for your kids and their friendships!

2. Common Interests: Have fun together

Another way to help teens navigate friendships is to point out common interests among their friends.

Encourage your teen to go out and participate in an activity of shared interest with their friends. 

Whether it’s putt-putt golf, going to the movies, shopping, hanging out at a coffee shop or being crafty, there are tons of possibilities. 

Sometimes young people open up more when there’s a focused activity to do, or when they’re away from the house. 

Does your teen enjoy sports? Take your son and his friends to the batting cages or to the local bowling alley. 

Are your teens into baking? Have them pick out a recipe, make a grocery list, and then take them to the store with some friends to get the ingredients. Once you’re back home, let them try their hand at baking together. 

Encourage your kids to enjoy their friends and have FUN together! 

When you get your kids away from the TV and their devices, and connect them to their peers, you’re doing the right thing as a parent. 

Having common interests and shared activities is an awesome way for your kids to connect with their friends. 

Don’t underestimate the power of human interaction! 

3. Close Friends: Quality vs quantity

My mom used to tell me that if I could count the number of good friends on one hand, I should consider myself lucky. 

She wasn’t insinuating that having a lot of friends is bad. On the contrary, her point was to value a few really close friends.

Your child will go through seasons of friendships with various kids, but hopefully they will find a good group to do life with by the time they’re tweens and teens. 

Help your teen understand the value of friendship, and the idea that you can’t go deep with 100 people. Go deep with just a few trusted friends. 

In this digital age of social media followers and “friends,” it can be challenging for our teens and tweens to understand quality of friends vs quantity. 

Your child’s happiness or worth in life should not be determined by the number of friends they have (digitally or physically). 

If your teenager is having trouble connecting with their friends, help them out by evaluating their current friendships. 

Evaluate friendships with your teenager by looking at these factors:

  • How often do they see their friends
  • Good friends vs acquaintances
  • Friends at school vs lifelong friends
  • Friends that bring about drama vs friends who are life-giving

Also, as a parent, it’s probably important for you to think about the parents of these friends and your relationship with them. 

Sometimes there can be drama with your child’s friends and their parents. Usually a combination like that is more trouble than it’s worth! 

Another Pin For Your Boards!

 pinterest pin to help teens navigate friendships

4. Compassionate And Kind: Positive interactions

Another essential factor to help teens navigate friendships is to evaluate their interactions.

Make sure these relationships are marked by compassion and kindness:

  • Are their interactions positive or negative? 
  • Does your teen seem happy after hanging out with that friend or unhappy and stressed? 
  • Is this friendship life-giving for your child or stress-inducing? 
  • Do they laugh together and have fun? 
  • Do you trust your teen and this friend and how they choose to spend their time, or are you leery of their choices? 

Once your kids are teenagers, you won’t always have total control over their choices. 

And you don’t want that, because you’re trying to raise confident kids who can make and own their own choices! 

However, you can guide them by helping them think through and evaluate their friendships. 

When I was growing up, my mom would have me make a pro/con list if I was caught in a tough decision. That was so helpful! 

The same principle can be applied to friendships. 

If your teen is constantly dragged down by a particular friend and this relationship seems to only create drama and stress, then maybe it’s time to have a heart-to-heart with your teenager. 

How do I help my teen evaluate their friendships without being a total control freak? 

You can ask questions like: 

  • Is this friendship worth your time and energy? 
  • Does your relationship help you in life or cause drama? 
  • Would you be sad to not have this friend around anymore? 
  • Do you feel a burden lifted just thinking about ending this friendship? 

Allow your teen to think through the questions and answer them honestly. 

When your son or daughter is ready, you can discuss their answers and hopefully have a healthy conversation about it. 

Remind your teenager that you and your spouse are on their side and want what’s best for them. 

This is also a great time to share when you’ve had to evaluate a friendship in your own life. It is common for adults too! 

Let your teen know that sometimes we as adults have to put up boundaries or end friendships that are toxic and unhealthy. 

Evaluating friendships is a life-skill! 

Encourage your teen to have friendships marked by compassion and kindness. 

Who has time for negativity? Nobody! 

5. Committed: People over phones

One thing that I am continually thankful for is that my childhood was free from smartphones and devices. 

When my friends and I hung out, we talked about life, used our imagination, and just had FUN! 

Now it seems like kids get together and have no idea what to do unless they’re watching tv, playing video games, or watching videos on someone’s phone. 

AAAAAAHHHHHHHH! Blasted phone addiction!

When you’re parenting today’s teens, you can’t avoid the smartphone thing, you have to face it head on. 

As a parent, you have a choice to allow your child to even have a phone. 

Just because everyone else in 6th grade has a smartphone doesn’t mean your tween needs one too. 

Giving your child a smartphone is a huge decision. Do not take it lightly. 

Once you cross that bridge and allow that access, it’s pretty hard to backtrack. 

If you’ve already entered into the world of smartphones with your teens and tweens, your next battle is to make and enforce boundaries. 

My first suggestion is to create a cellphone contract. I’m 100% serious. 

If you need an example, you should read the book Raising Grateful Kids In An Entitled World. The author, Kristen Welch, has a great cellphone contract in the back of her book. 

That book is my favorite parenting book of all time. It’s absolutely phenomenal. Please do yourself a favor and buy it on Amazon right now! No regrets, seriously. 

Once you have a contract created, you need to make sure those rules and consequences are enforced. 

Let your teen know you are serious that a phone is a privilege not a right. 

Privileges can easily be taken away. 

How can I emphasize people over phones with my teenager? 

Great question! 

Here are some helpful tips: 

  • You can start by modeling it to your teens. If you’re having a conversation, make sure you’re not in the middle of a text or messing with your phone. 
  • Have a no phones rule at the dinner table or during family time. 
  • Be the family that doesn’t have phones out when you have people over. 
  • Put your phone on silent or in another room in the evenings so you can pay attention to your family. This will set a great example for your kids.
  • Have a family mantra of “people over phones” that gets repeated all the time

Remember, you have wisdom that your kids haven’t acquired yet. 

It’s your job as the parent to teach your kids to value relationships with people over devices. 

Encourage your teens to unplug from their devices and plug into relationships. 

This is one of the greatest things you can do for them!

Let’s Wrap Things Up!

Thanks for hanging with me in this post and caring about your teens and their ability to navigate friendships. 

For all of you note takers out there, here are my tips one more time!

5 Effective Ways To Help Teens Navigate Friendships

  1. Conversation: Spoken words vs texting
  2. Common Interests: Have fun together
  3. Close Friends: Quality vs quantity
  4. Compassionate and Kind: Positive interactions
  5. Committed: People over phones 

These are just ideas to help you as the parent navigate conversations with your teens and tweens. 

Parenting is a tough job sometimes, but well worth the effort.

It requires commitment, perseverance, prayer, patience, and lots and lots of grace. 

Remember, it’s progress over perfection

Progress in parenting is totally worth celebrating! 

Here’s to having everyone in your family connect with each other and their friends in healthy ways. 

Lots of love to each of you! 

Lisa 

Cover Photo by Hannah Nelson on Pexels

30 Comments

  1. Adriane

    I have young kids right now, and the thought of parenting teenagers makes me want to curl up in a ball in a corner. So much drama. These are great tips to help them get through it.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks Adriane! Agreed, thinking about navigating the teenage years seems a bit daunting and overwhelming. Thankful that we can rely on God’s grace to see us through!

  2. Evie

    We are just entering tweens in my household and already feel the pain. Thank you for sharing and giving us some good tips. I really need to work with my daughter on the quality vs quantity. She wants to be friends with everyone but we just don’t have the energy for that.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Quality vs quantity is a hard concept to grasp, even as adults!

  3. Kelly Bolen

    Life was so much simpler and easier when there was no social media, phones, apps, etc. There are certainly days I wish we could go back to that time….

    Reply
    • Lisa

      I totally agree with that sentiment Kelly!

  4. Linda

    We have held off as long as possible on granting a phone to our teen. This might be the summer it happens, but mostly because of growing independence (I want to be able to reach him and vice versa when he’s at the pool or out with friends). Love your tip about pros and cons lists. Not long ago our son was in an all out battle with his ‘best friend’ — the final of many. It was hard for him to let go, so I suggested he make a pros/cons list about their friendship. When he saw on paper that the negative impacts of their friendship outweighed the positives, he was finally able to cut ties. He’s been so much better for it.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      It’s amazing what a pro/con list can show a person visually that a simple conversation cannot. I’m glad your son was able to let go of that friendship and be in a healthier place. =)

    • Lisa

      You got this Mama!

  5. Genesis

    I feel like it’s more than just teens and tweens that struggle with this nowadays. So many people struggle to have healthy connections with friends now that we have social media at our fingertips. These are all great suggestions that everyone should take to heart.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Totally agree Genesis. We can all definitely stand to improve on our in-person communication skills!

  6. Heather LeGuilloux

    It is so true that written words and spoken words can be interpreted so differently.. and having a face-to-face or video conversation can help to communicate more clearly. Such great advice to help young people navigate and strengthen their relationships, thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      You’re welcome Heather! I think we could all use more practice with face-to-face conversations these days, especially since we’ve been so isolated with Covid.

  7. Julie

    This is a great article with practical suggestions. Thanks. I’m not quite at the teen stage yet with my kids and already feeling nervous about it. I like “people over phones.” Simple and effective.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Glad you found these tips helpful Julie! I agree, people over phones is simple and effective.

  8. Gianna Nebbia

    I love the idea of not just communicating with your kids but also helping them communicate with others! As a speech therapist, I know helping people communicate effectively should carry over to when you’re not with them too.

    I both agree and disagree about reading their texts, depending on how young they are. My parents never read my texts, and it made me feel really trusted by them. But kids are getting phones so much younger these days, so I can see both ways. There are life lessons to be taught regarding texts, social media, etc. I also don’t have kids so I can’t fully make a stance on this situation.

    Such a great, thought provoking article, thank you!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks Gianna for taking the time to read and comment! I think parenting in the age of social media is such a challenge. There’s definitely no perfect way of doing things.

  9. Jennifer Record

    Wow, did I need to read this (and hear this) this week! Thank you for reminders of things I know, but need to do 100%..in person, eye to eye contact, and how to help my daughter evaluate her friendships.. thank you for a great post!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      You’re welcome Jennifer! So glad you found these tips helpful. =)

  10. Jenny R.

    Great thoughts, Lisa! Your advice is wonderful for parents. I need to be mindful of my own eye contact and listening skills by putting down the phone as well.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks Jenny. I totally agree that I need to make more of an effort with eye contact and putting my phone away. It’s almost never urgent with the phone, right?

  11. Nisee

    Beautiful post and great tips, I have two teenagers at home and this help. Thank you

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks Nisee! I’m so glad this is a timely article for you with your teens.

  12. Julie A Plagens

    I think kids have not really learned to have real conversations with each other one on one. There is an art to listening and talking. Phones have definitely hurt our kid’s social skills. Good tips to help them navigate real people!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      The lost art of talking face-to-face…I definitely want kids these days to learn how to do that and APPRECIATE real people interaction. That’ll be a long road to change, but well worth it! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. =)

  13. simplyjolayne

    Navigating three teenage/adult daughters is a challenge. Technology is such a part of their lives constantly. If they are bored, they pull out their phones. If they are watching tv, they pull out their phones. If they have any kind of down time, they pull out their phones. Kids have no concept of sitting and watching the landscape roll by as they travel.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      I totally agree that it’s a completely different crop of kids, teens, and adults these days. Young people are growing up surrounded by technology so they don’t know anything different. I’m not quite sure there’s one perfect solution to the matter. Parents have to navigate these waters the best way they know how.

  14. Melisa

    This is exactly what goes on in teens and tweens lives now. You hit it on the head. It is unfortunate it is the most influential part of their lives now. I am so grateful for you sharing this because I just read in front of my teens 13 and 16 which helped bring up a lot of conversation that needs to happen. Thank you always.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Absolutely Melisa, I’m so glad you found this article helpful! I love that you read it with Shelby and Will and that it brought out some good conversations. Praying for your family as you navigate these tricky years!

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