Our very favourite blogs are the ones that teenagers write themselves. Especially when they’re giving advice and providing insight to us parents from a teen perspective. So we are very grateful to Ryan, who’s 17, for writing so openly for us on the subject of teenage boy friendships and how to help as a parent. We all want our teens to be happy. And loyal, supportive friends can be vital to happiness during the teenage years. So, as parents how do we decide when, or whether, to get involved? We hope Ryan’s top tips will help when making those trickiest of decisions!
- Be aware of the school ‘bubble’
The first thing about teenage friendships that I would urge parents to consider is something they can probably remember from their own school years. It’s very hard not to think the whole world revolves around the things that happen at your school and the people there. I remember one of my teachers referring to it as a school ‘bubble’. I never really understood what he meant by it until I moved school. Moving helped me gain perspective on the reality that every school has its own people, friendships groups, drama and gossip. But while you’re part of it, it’s impossible not to feel that these are all-important.
As a parent, it really helps if you keep in mind that it is very hard not to get swept up into your school’s bubble when you are a teenager. It can make friendships feel very high-stakes and can cause undue stress. Do everything you can to help your teenagers understand that their school life is only one small part of the world and that it won’t affect their whole lives going forward.
- Encourage group activities
I am very grateful that I have been encouraged to spend my time doing activities that involve lots of other people, as this definitely helped me develop healthy friendships more easily. For me, most of these groups are sports teams and clubs, as I have always enjoyed playing a variety of different sports. Doing so has helped me meet lots of like-minded people I could easily get along with. I think, depending on your son’s interests, encouraging them to go and do things outside of school is one of the best ways you can help them learn to make meaningful friendships. It’s much easier getting to know people when there’s already a strong shared interest that you can talk about to break the ice.
- Help them be the social organiser
A piece of advice I was always given by my parents which really helped me, was to never be embarrassed about being the one to reach out to friends to try and make plans. The worst that can happen is that your friends say they can’t make it. And the best is that you all have a great time doing something you want to do, with the people you want to be with. And it might not have happened at all if you didn’t ask… Some of the best days during school holidays so far have been when we organised our own trips to theme parks and water parks. Not only were they fun at the time but we still reminisce together about funny moments that happened there.
Make sure to tell your teens that everyone likes to be asked and they won’t look desperate or sad if they’re the ones doing the asking.
- Don’t worry too much about time spent online
Don’t be too quick to limit the time they get to play online with their friends. Remember that it’s the teenage equivalent of going down to the pub. And I would say, if they ask for extra controllers for when friends are round, or a headset to make it possible to play with their friends online, buy them! They’re great value for money, as they last for ages. Playing games online with friends is an extra chance to socialise, especially when you live a bit further away or in the winter.
Be keen to offer lifts
This might not sound too appealing, but helping your teenager meet up with friends by helping out with lifts is life-changing for them, especially in the summer holiday. Hopefully they will work around your work and other commitments by being flexible about when and where they get dropped off. Trust me, we’re all desperate to be able to drive ourselves! But until we can, making time to drop us off with friends, even if it’s every day and a real hassle, is so important in maintaining close friendships. I live quite a long way way from my group of friends and am so grateful that my mum is always happy to help when she can. I’ll be doing the same for my younger brother before too long, hopefully!
Be a cool parent
If your son has friends over, try to leave them in peace as much as possible. Especially if they’re not up in a bedroom, you hovering around can mean that nobody quite relaxes. However polite they are, they really won’t want you around!
When they get to the drinking age, my experience is that the boys whose parents have helped them buy and choose alcohol haven’t had many problems. They’ll probably drink regardless of your involvement. If you help out, you can make sure they are drinking beer/cider/wine and not spirits, and advise on how much is sensible. Otherwise the chances are they will do it in the wrong way and have serious regrets!
Listen and sympathise if they have problems
Finally, it’s important to tread carefully when things go wrong. Understand that sometimes when they are in a bad mood it will be because of school drama or a falling out they might not particularly want to talk about. If they do share the details and you think they should have reacted differently, try not to criticise them. It can feel like the whole world is against them if you do. You will be desperate to help them solve problems but don’t rush to offer advice. Wait until they ask and then talk about it together so you know that any actions are something that they feel comfortable with. But don’t be afraid to leave them alone to let them sort it by themselves and trust them to come to you if they need to.
Thank you so much, Ryan, for this valuable advice on teenage boy friendships and how to help as a parent. It’s always so helpful to hear from someone who’s right in the middle of it. And we think you’re a wise head on young shoulders!
Louise & Anna x
A little bit about Equipp
We’re Louise & Anna, mum to 5 teens and young adults. We set up Equipp to help spread happiness and positivity amongst today’s amazing young people. We believe it’s vital that every teenager is given confidence to believe in themselves. Telling them how wonderful they are and putting a daily smile on their faces via the cards and gifts they receive from Equipp is integral to everything we design and produce. Have a browse around our collections of birthday and teenage milestone gifts and please do get in touch if you have any questions or would like any recommendation.
We love to celebrate teenagers in every way, and are building a community of parents who feel the same. We hope you enjoy reading our blog posts and we’d love it if you came and joined us on Instagram or Facebook to chat about parenting teens.
Oh, and we’re raising money for a fantastic teenage suicide prevention charity, Hector’s House, with a donation from every purchase from Equipp.