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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Friends & Healthy Relationships

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One of the most important things in our lives is knowing we have family and friends who will love us no matter what happens. Being able to recognize who our true friends are, and knowing how to avoid unhealthy relationships are important skills.

Transitions from elementary to middle school, from middle school to high school, and from high school to college, are stressful. Teens are vulnerable to creating bad relationships when they feel awkward or are lonely, homesick, bored, or struggling academically or financially. These transitions also usually include exposure to a wider variety of people and differences, which can be exhilarating to teens trying to find their own path in the world.

Parents can help them make good decisions about friends by talking about what makes true friends versus false friends. Here are some tips for evaluating friends that you can share with your teens.

True Friends
  • Tend to get closer over time, getting to know each other slowly. Instant friendships can end just as quickly as they started.
  • Make us feel safe, welcome, and secure. They do not bend rules or disrespect your values or trivialize your concerns.
  • Support your goals, encourage you to do your best, and want you to be successful.
  • Take time for you, listen to you, disagree with you gently and point out differences of opinion gently. They never make fun of you!
  • Are never jealous or possessive - they encourage time spent with family and new or old other friends.
  • Are able to work through conflict - explain their feelings, own their part in the problem, apologize, and talk the problem through.
False Friends
  • Demand all of your attention and are jealous of other friends or family.
  • Only appreciate your opinions when they are similar to their own beliefs or opinions.
  • Expect you to do what they want to do all of the time - the relationship is pretty much "all about them."
  • Never take responsibility for problems and hurt feelings - nothing is ever their fault.
  • Demand proof of your devotion - more time spent with them, more attention - and there is never enough.
  • Do not respect your values, limits or boundaries and may encourage you to do things you are not comfortable doing.
  • Want too much, too soon!
Relationships are built on love and history - they take time and effort. It cannot hurt to talk about these things and let your teens know you are always willing to talk about how to get out of uncomfortable situations - true friends (and conscious parents) never say "I told you so!"

Photo Credit: Shahram Sharif
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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