Teens + Friendship

Carol Bartels
Hear from our Freshman Counselor Carol Bartels about ways you can help your teen navigate their first year in high school.
Entering high school can be daunting for both parents and their students as everyone faces a host of unknowns. How will my student make friends?  Will they even make friends? What if everyone has a friend group but my student? The most common mistakes made by students come out of an attempt to manage those unknowns.  

As the Freshman Counselor at Houston Christian High School, I’ve witnessed first hand how certain behaviors can either assist with a student’s success or aid in his or her social floundering. Below are a few coaching tips for parents to help their students navigate the first year of high school. 

No Man is an Island: Reach Out

Often students make the error of believing that if someone wants to be their friend, they will seek them out.  However, if everyone worked according to that belief, no one would develop friends. Students need to learn how to reach out, engage others, and invite.  It is risky, to a degree, to put oneself out there, but is worth the risk because it is most often fruitful.

Making “Permanent” Attachments Too Quickly 

Friendships fluctuate during freshman year. Students who connect rapidly and deeply to a new “best friend” are at risk of losing that new BFF as one or both of them navigate through the inevitable questions of who they are and where they belong.

Another pitfall is jumping into the wrong friend group too quickly: This is often done out of an anxiousness to belong.  It’s good for students to sit back a bit, observe, and then choose friends who fit who you are. That doesn’t mean students don’t engage at all, but engage casually. Otherwise students find themselves trying to navigate the waters of attempting to disconnect or disengage from a group of friends that they find wasn’t the best for them.

Measuring Value by the Numbers

As Lisa DaMour writes in her book Under Pressure (a great read for girl parents), numbers bring drama.  Inevitably, in a large group, there will be two or three that are closer to one another, making others feel excluded.  In addition, large groups lead to having to make decisions to include everyone, which isn’t always ideal or as fun, or choose to leave someone out.  DaMour suggests that one or two solid friendships “reduces stress by lending predictability to girl’s social lives. Girls with tiny friendship groups know whom they’ll spend time with on the weekend or turn to for support when life throws a curveball.”

Prioritizing Romance

Forming romantic relationships too quickly prevents students from forming solid friendships as the bulk of social time is spent with the boyfriend or girlfriend. Inevitably, the relationship will eventually end and the individual is left adrift without a supportive group of friends.

High school can be a fun and transformative time in a student’s life. We hope these recommendations will enhance your student’s personal experience and allow them to enjoy all that life has to offer!