Dr Asha Pemberton
Young people mirror their teen experiences in their young adult lives. Experience has consistently demonstrated that the positive lifestyle habits of young people persist. Interactions with peers lay the foundation for adult relationships and we now have a better understanding of the impact of peer relationships during the teen years on their adult health and functioning.
Secure and supportive teen friendships help young people understand that their experiences are mostly normal. They are able to recognise that others have the same emotions, insecurities, fears, and anxieties. This also occurs in online spaces and we must recognise that this is a primary method of teens.
Parents may try, but ultimately cannot choose their teenagers’ friends nor can they control those relationships. Social connections, communication skills and empathy come more naturally for some compared to others, based on personality, experiences and parenting environments. Nevertheless, these are all essential skills required by young people to help them navigate the ups and downs of teen relationships. Young people simply need to learn through experience, how to navigate friendships.
Young people also need to learn the difference between peers with whom they may have common routines as opposed to those with whom they have an authentic connection. Every classmate or teammate may not be a bonafide friend.
Friendships require the skills of listening as well as sharing. Conflicts will arise and young people change as they develop. Youth require the skills of being attentive, consistent and caring. Young people also need to learn to take the time required to develop relationships and not to proceed too hastily into deep connections.
As devastating as it is, it must be recognised that all teen friendships last forever. Most, in fact evolve in time. Teens change as they mature, and therefore they may naturally grow apart. Parents should encourage teens to think about the qualities that are important to them in a relationship and support healthy quality relationships even if few, above more numerous superficial interactions.