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Help Your Teen Develop Positive Relationships

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As children age, teen friendships and positive relationships become increasingly important. Parents sometimes feel ignored or abandoned by their children in favor of these new, deeper friendships.

Daniel J. Siegel, a professor of psychology and co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, states this stage is expected during a teen’s development. Dr. Siegel insists that teenagers’ need to connect through friendship is instinctual and natural.

“Why would it be natural to turn toward your peers as an adolescent? Because that’s on whom you’re going to depend on when you leave home. Often, in the wild, a mammal without an adolescent peer group is as good as dead. So connecting with a peer group can feel like a matter of survival.”

Dr. Daniel J. Siegel
high schoolers learning how to be friends

According to the Search Institute, one of the values that support healthy teen development is positive peer influence, and teens who become involved with supportive friends gain opportunities to develop soft skills like deep listening and appreciating others.

Most parents want their teen to have good friendships and positive dating relationships. Realistically, parents can’t choose a teen’s friends. Parents can help teens understand the values and skills that will help them form positive relationships, including teenagers being able to identify positive behaviors.

Healthy Behaviors Include

  • Problem-solving and communicating honestly
  • Understanding and respecting each other 
  • Caring about each other
  • Sharing some of the same goals and values

Dangerous Behaviors Include

  • Jealousy
  • Manipulation
  • Negative attitudes and dishonesty
  • Blaming each other when problems/issues arise

The Benefits of Positive Relationships

The principle purpose of adolescent friendships is to provide young people with the means to transition slowly from their parents. Beyond increased independence, teenagers gain long-term benefits necessary for a productive, healthy life:

  • Higher self-esteem
  • Lower rates of anxiety, depression, and mental illness
  • Higher-functioning immune system
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Longer life expectancy
  • Stronger emotional regulation skills
  • Glass half-full, optimistic attitude
  • Higher levels of empathy
teen girls hanging out with their friends

Parents: Be Their Guide to Positive Relationships

Conclusively, teens are sure to experience many ups and downs, but parents can play an essential role in understanding their positive and negative experiences.

For example, most teens are likely to have friends that earned parental approval or disapproval. However, many teens are known to learn through personal experience, through trial and error; learning to choose friends is a personal process. Every social interaction can provide a new opportunity for teens to learn how to interact with different types of people and improve their social skills.

One study found that teens spent 29% of their waking time with friends, and 23% of their time was spent with classmates and peers of the same age. Additionally, less than 5% of the time was spent alone with parents. Although 5% is significantly less time, teens tend to pattern their friendships on what they learn from their parents. One of the best ways parents can influence their teen is to make wise interpersonal choices and demonstrate good relationships in their own lives.

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