Understanding the balance between friends and parents

As children become teenagers, they begin to spend more of their time alone and with friends. By early adolescence, more than 30% of children’s social interactions are with their peers. This means that teenagers spend less time with their parents. Some parents worry that these intense friendships will take over and become more important than family.

But your child still needs you and the secure base you provide. Being interested and available lets your child know that he/she can turn to you when they need to. As your child gets older and more mature, you might also notice that your child gives you some support too.

Teenagers do share a lot with and copy a great deal from their friends. For example, teenagers might change their behaviour, appearance or interests to show that they belong to a certain group of friends.

These changes are usually just experimentation. As long as your child isn’t doing anything destructive or dangerous, this kind of behaviour can actually be a positive sign that your child feels supported and confident enough to try something new.

Parents and friends play different roles in a teenager’s life. You influence your child’s long-term decisions to do with values and morals. Your child’s friends are more likely to influence short-term choices, such as appearance and interests. Strong relationships with both parents and friends help teenagers grow into well-adjusted adults with strong social skills.

What teenage friendships look like

During the early teenage years, friendships become more intense, close and supportive. The rate at which the teenagers communicate with their friends increases.

Teenage friendships tend to be based on personal similarity, acceptance and sharing. Same-sex friendships are the norm during the early high school years. As they get older, though, many teenagers also make friends with the opposite sex. In general, girls tend to build closeness through conversation. Boys prefer to share activities.

The internet lets teenagers build friendships through social networking. These friendships are different from real-life relationships. In most cases, they offer teenagers a way to connect easily and a chance to talk about sensitive issues without fear of being judged, and a chance to experiment with identity in a more or less anonymous way.




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