January 10, 2011 by middleearthnj
Making friends, being friends, and occasionally ending friendships are all an important developmental task for tweens and teens. In the early years, many times parents could “choose” their children’s friends by making “play dates” for them. However, despite parents’ worries over their children’s friends and their influence, your teen’s friendships are completely in their own hands, as they should be. Remember that your teen is an adult-in-training – they need the experience of independently handling their own friendships, with you as a support and guidance backstage, to become a healthy and successful adult.
Although the ultimate decision of friendships lies with your teen, there are still ways you can guide and influence their choices. It is important for parents to talk to their teens about what attributes make up a good friend. Explaining the qualities that a “true” friend possesses helps define how your child should act to their friends and what they should expect from others.
Qualities of a True Friend
A good friend tells the truth. They may not share every detail of their life, but they are clear about their intentions. They don’t misrepresent themselves or situations to you, and when something doesn’t seem right, they let you know.
Shared interests are integral to friendships, and more than likely, you will choose friends because they seem interesting to you. A friend should feel fun to you… in whatever way that you define fun (it’s different for different people).
A good friend listens to you and notices things about you. They can usually tell when you’re happy, sad, excited, shocked or upset. If they realize that they have annoyed you, they try work out a compromise.
A good friend builds you up. They make you feel good about yourself, they understand what makes you tick, and they will help you be the person you want to be. They won’t try to change who you are or drag you into situations that make you uncomfortable or put you at risk of losing something that matters to you.
A true friend won’t gossip about you, or try to damage your reputation, or try to steal your girlfriend or boyfriend, your job or your personality. They will stick up for you when you’re in trouble.
A good friend cares about you. Different people may express that care in different ways – whereas one person might offer a hug, another might gently tease you. Generally, if someone knows what’s going on in your life and acts interested about it, you can be fairly certain they care about you.
A good friend sticks with you even when you make mistakes. When you bomb the test, when your parents get divorced, when you acted totally “uncool” in front of the football team, your friend will still be there.
A true friend understands you and doesn’t try to change you. They roll with the punches as you grow and change and know how to handle your faults. They are also accepting of your other friends and do not try to dominate all of your time.
Friends sometimes hurt each other, but they can apologize and forgive.
Ending a Bad Friendship
Tell your teen the signs of a bad friendship: talks about you behind your back; is always putting you down; doesn’t want you to make any more friends; not willing to compromise in disagreements; or encourages you to do things that are against the law.
It’s important that your teen realizes they are not trapped in a bad friendship. It may seem like the hardest thing in the world to end a bad friendship, but continuing to be abused is much worse. Encourage your teen to talk to their friend in a polite and direct manner and simply explain that this friendship is not working out and it would be better to end it now on good terms rather than in the future on bad terms.
We highly recommend that adults copy the “qualities of a good friend” listed above and print it out for tweens and teens. This is valuable information that they can refer to again and again. Remind teens that tt takes time to make a good friend, but it is well worth the effort in the long run. A good friendship will make you feel good about yourself, and that’s priceless.