To better understand
Relationships with friends change and evolve between childhood and adulthood. Whether a teenager has a lot of friends or just a few, friendships become very important during this stage of life.
Outside of family, friends are a teenager’s main reference point—people with whom to share information and experiment with behaviours, values and ideas. Together, teenage friends learn how to become adults.
Teenagers develop a sense of belonging to their circle of friends, who become like a second family. Their desire to fit in and act and think like their friends can be very intense. Young people are more susceptible to peer pressure around the middle of their teenage years, a time when their need for independence from their parents and their sense of belonging to a group are at their strongest. As we know, peer pressure can be either positive or negative. Naturally, the experiences they have with their friends will shape the way they act and interact with others later on.
That is why it is so important that teenagers learn social skills and develop the ability to manage social influences. First and foremost, these skills help them maintain good friendships. They also promote good mental health, not to mention prevent behavioural disorders, substance use problems, risky sexual behaviour, violence, and dropping out of school. As a parent, you have a role to play!
Development of friendships in adolescence
Figure 2 : only in French
To better support
- Talk to your teen about their friends and their activities outside of school (without interrogating them!).
- Pay attention to what your teen is going through: their ideas, thoughts, moods, and behaviours. Talk to them calmly, at appropriate times. Above all, respect their decision whether or not to talk to you. While they may not want to tell you everything, another adult or support worker could be able to help them.
- Ask whether other parents or adults will be present when your teen is out with friends.
- Set curfews for your teen.
- Explain the conduct, attitudes, and behaviours expected of them (courtesy, respect, politeness, non-violence, etc.) and let them know what behaviours are against the law (bullying, violence, vandalism, theft, etc.).
- Prepare your teenager for major life events (starting high school, moving, first job, etc.). Talk to them. Walk them through what will happen. Let them voice their fears. Help them identify solutions to their problems. It is best if they solve their own problems.
- Encourage them to try new activities where they are likely to excel and meet interesting people, e.g., extracurricular, municipal or community, artistic, sports or recreational activities.
- Help your teen recognize situations of peer pressure and the signs of a bad friendship (e.g., frequent disappointment or arguments, manipulation, jealousy, disrespect, repeatedly disclosing secrets, being pressured to do something against their will, etc.).
- Make sure your teen knows that you, or another trusted adult, are available to talk if they need to.
- Let your teen have friends over.
- Designate a space where your teen can entertain friends.
Let your teen use you as an excuse for saying no!
You might also agree on a code word that you and your teen can use in situations where they feel uncomfortable or unable to say no to their friends. If they say the code word, it means they want you to go pick them up or tell them they are not allowed to do the thing for which they are asking permission.
- Outside of their family members, friends are a young person’s guidepost. Together, they learn how to become adults.
- During adolescence, parents still hold sway when it comes to their teen learning social skills and the ability to manage social influences. Along with friends, they play an important role in their teen’s physical and mental health, not to mention their academic success!
Resources and practical tools
1. For support:
If you are dealing with a situation that has you worried, do not hesitate to reach out to a support worker or a health and social services professional:
If you fear for your teen’s or your own safety, call 911 or your local police department.
The police can also be a helpful resource, especially for preventing gang activity, violence, bullying, delinquency, and other offences.
Latest updates : February 2020