5 Suggestions to Improve Your Teen’s Decision-Making Process When It Comes to New Friends

Adolescence is a tumultuous time for most teens. For many teenagers, changes in biology spill over into major social changes as they in both middle school and high school. With these transitions come new friendships, some of which are stronger than others. 

As a parent, you’re right to be concerned about the quality of friends that your teen decides to spend their time with. Even if your teenager makes friends from an extracurricular program after school, like sports or drama, there’s always the risk that your teen may befriend a bad apple. If you’re concerned about how your teen is going about making friends, here are five suggestions to consider putting into practice.

Talk to Your Teen About Social Media

Social media is one of the biggest ways that your teen interacts with other kids their age. In this way, it’s a great communication tool to get to know new classmates or even seek out some homework help late in the evening. That being said, social media use has been linked to several negative side effects in teens especially. 

According to a study conducted by JAMA Pediatrics, there is a link between an increase in social media use and an increase in depression in teens. Make sure that you talk about these sorts of issues with your child, and consider monitoring how much time they’re spending on popular apps like TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram. While the developers of these apps are making some strides in limiting feelings of FOMO or excessive comparisons about how many likes a post can get, strong parenting will always outpace the tech giants whose goal is to make money.

Get to Know Your Child’s Friends

One of the best ways to help understand how your child’s friends are affecting their life is to get to know them. Offer to drive them home after practice or invite them to a family dinner and involve them in the conversation. When you get to know the people your teen is spending their time with, you can better guide your child to and away from good and bad influences.

When in Doubt, Do a Little Extra Digging

If you’ve met one of your teen’s friends but still have a nagging feeling in the back of your head about them, it’s okay to do some extra research. Talk to other parents who might know the teen in question and see what they know. You can also search their name on a background check online to learn more about them. These sorts of websites offer access to criminal records and mugshots, so you’ll be able to know whether or not the individual is a good influence on your child. You can also see if any of the teen’s family members have a criminal past which may affect whether or not you’re comfortable letting your child stay over at their home.

Tell Your Teen It’s OK to Seek Help

If your child seems to be struggling, make sure to encourage them to talk to a therapist. You must normalize seeking therapy and do your part as a parent in destigmatizing mental health issues. Teen depression and anxiety are on the rise across the country, and it can be valuable to enlist specialists to help address these problems if your teen is facing them. 

An organization like Polaris Teen Rehab Center, which specializes in serving the adolescent population, can be a huge help in situations like this. Polaris pairs of expert therapists with teens in a residential setting so that they can receive the treatment they need to live their life to the fullest. They even offer recreational therapies like hiking and gardening, as well as arts-based therapies to help your teen find a new, productive hobby that allows them to sustain their improved way of life.

Give Your Child Space

It’s important to note that if your teen views you as overbearing or nosy, many of the strategies listed above may not work. While you should be an active participant in your child’s life, it’s equally important to give them the autonomy they need to grow and thrive. Part of adolescence is making and learning from mistakes. Your role as a parent should be to ensure that none of the mistakes or bad relationships they form are so detrimental that they negatively affect your teen for years to come.

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