Friendships are key a part of adolescent life. Teens rely upon their friends for social interaction, feeling seen and accepted, as well as for feeling supported. In fact, for many teens friends can become more important than parents. It’s typical during adolescence for teens to find greater satisfaction in their friendships than in their relationships with parents.
For this reason, teens might find a great deal of support among their friends, especially if they are facing mental health concerns. Most friends want to be supportive. In fact, one study administered in the UK revealed that when teens are faced with adversity, friendships can be a tremendous source of support. In various ways, the study measured a student’s level of resilience when faced with challenges and how they coped with those challenges. Students of both genders found that their closest friendships helped them deal effectively with the problems they faced.
The research found that friends helped with finding the positive in problems and with strategizing and planning. The results revealed that friends provided emotional support, which helped students develop skills and resilience so that they could meet the challenges they faced. In short, the research found that friends can help build resilience in teens.
However, friends won’t be able to provide professional support. It’s important that if parents and caregivers see their teens struggling with a mental health concern that they seek professional assistance. Involving a therapist or psychologist can lead to whether your teen has a diagnosis. And then with a diagnosis, the proper treatment plan can be developed.
Then, as parents, you can encourage your teen to rely upon their friends in the following ways:
Your teen might want to share their mental health condition with their friend(s). However, it’s important that you let your teen decide about this. You can let your teen know that there will likely be some friends that will be supportive. But there will be some friends who won’t.
Your teen may want to share their symptoms with friends and ask for support. If your teen doesn’t want to reveal their diagnosis, they might talk with a friend about a challenging symptom they experience. For instance, some teens who are depressed have a hard time concentrating. A friend might remind a teen to focus. Or a friend might help a teen with a math problem if they are having a hard time with it.
Your teen can rely upon their friends for emotional support. Even if your teen doesn’t share anything with their friends, knowing that they have friends who care can make a difference. Often what makes a mental health condition worse is feeling alone and isolated. However, just knowing that there are people who are can be meaningful and hopeful.
Friends are a critical part of a teen’s life. A parent might also encourage a teen to make friends. And if a teen is having a hard time making friends at school, there are also after-school activities, sports, clubs, and part-time work where a teen might be able to meet new people.
However, as mentioned above, be sure to have your teen assessed by a mental health professional if you have any psychological concerns – whether your teen has friends or not.