It’s so important to connect with your teen’s friends. If you want to know what is going on with your child, take some time to listen to their friends. Their friends will talk if you aren’t judgmental. If you just hang around, and especially if you feed them, they will talk with you. Most teens are dying for an adult to listen to them and approve of what they’re doing well.
It will be tempting to feel responsible for your teenager’s friends. However, you aren’t. They have their own parents who are responsible to help them make all the right choices. You can guide them and advise them, but know your role. Being friends with them doesn’t mean you have to be their parent.
This does wonders for your relationship with your own child. If your teenage son or daughter sees you making an effort with the people they consider extremely important in their own life (i.e. their friends), your child will feel accepted by you.
I have been doing therapy with teens for almost a decade now. I have noticed very consistently the parents who are welcoming and open with their teenager’s friends have strong relationships with their teens. These parents also help their children learn from friends’ mistakes. These parents tend to know when their child’s friends do something they shouldn’t. They are able to guide their own teen without condemning the friends.
Here’s an example of why you don’t want to close off your teen’s friends. One boy I once worked with had friends who smoked marijuana sometimes. His mom was adamantly against this. She was very critical of the friends who used it. What happened as a result? The boy lied to his mom about their activities, and sometimes lied about who he was with. Eventually he ended up trying it too. In the long run he became a very consistent user. He started therapy at that point. Through a combination of methods used to help people quit an addiction, and working with his mom to accept the friends while not condoning some of their choices, two things changed. First of all her son quit smoking. Secondly, he started to tell her the truth again. He was allowed to have his friends over and she just sat and talked with them. They came to like her and began to hang around his house a lot. She maintained rules for her house and all her son’s friends respected those rules. She made sure they could always eat as much as they wanted, which guaranteed they’d spend more time there. Once her son’s friends were welcomed in her home, her son wanted to be home more. When he was home he was never in trouble. A relationship with her son’s friends was the key to a relationship with her son.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT