Friends are a big influence in young people’s lives. They need friends to confide in, socialise with and help shape their identity.
ReachOut Parents Youth Mental Health

The experience of having different friends helps them choose the sort of friends and relationships they want in the future.

Not always easy

Establishing and maintaining friendships can be difficult. Adolescence and the early 20s is a time of transition and change, which can lead to pressures in relationships.

The most common sources of tension among friends are:

  • Peer pressure – fear of being ostracised or left out can be a powerful motivator for young people to engage in activities or behaviours that they may not want to.
  • Arguments with a friend – can be isolating, possibly lead to bullying and be highly stressful for young people.
  • Friends going through change – when life becomes busy for friends, or they get into serious relationships it can lead people to feel left out, which can be highly distressing.
  • Not having friends – this can be a very isolating and lonely experience for young people. It may make it difficult to engage in education or work.

Help your son/daughter build positive relationships

Be a model and show your son/daughter how friendships should function by having good friends. Have people around you who are trustworthy, loyal, fun and share your values and goals.

  • Get to know your son/daughter’s friends, don’t assume the worst.
  • Think before you criticise friends. Criticising your son or daughter’s friend is like attacking them personally. Keep lines of communication open and find out why these friends are important to them.
  • If you have concerns about your child’s friends, talk to them about this so they know what your concerns are. Don’t jump to conclusions.
  • Talk to them about peer pressure. Encourage your son or daughter to trust their own sense of what’s right and discuss ways of saying no.
  • Take time to listen. More than anything, young people who are in emotional pain or distress need someone who will listen. Sometimes young people are more likely to push parents away than confide in them, so we need to make it easy for them to talk.
  • Try not to overreact when an issue occurs, listen to what they have to say without pre-judging.
  • Ask questions. It’s tempting to bombard your son or daughter with decades of wisdom. Instead we can recognise they have the answers inside them. Ask them questions to help them determine how to act.
  • Encourage them to participate in extra-curricular activities like sports, music, a part-time job, a local club or society, or something where they can mix with other young people.
  • Support your son/daughter’s self-esteem, give positive, accurate feedback. Identify and redirect inaccurate beliefs they have about themselves, whether they’re about perfection, attractiveness, ability etc.

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