Navigating Changing Relationships

Help your teen manage their changing relationships.

group of teenagers

Teens change both physically and emotionally as they grow and tend to spend more time with peers and less time with parents. Many teens crave acceptance, seek out their own circle of friends, and gravitate toward individuals with similar interests. Childhood friendships may fade as new friendships form.

  • During this time, adolescents develop more friendships with the opposite sex and show greater interest in romantic relationships. As they include more diverse types of friendships, they may also form fewer close friendships.
  • Emotional growth and self-esteem, or the belief in one’s value, is important to support healthy relationships. Social media may also heavily influence how youth feel about themselves and their lives.
  • Youth with healthy self-esteem let their strengths shape them, while youth with low self-esteem only recognize their weaknesses and compare themselves to others in a negative way, leaving feelings of not being good enough.

How to help teens understand emotions

Developing self-esteem and understanding complex emotions supports healthy relationship development. Caring adults serving as role models can encourage permanent, positive effects for the future by providing support and encouragement.

Support healthy relationships

  • Encourage emotional awareness. Ask teens to identify what emotion they are feeling. Often, providing reassurance that various emotions are “natural” can promote a healthy sense of self.
  • Support teens with recognizing emotions in those around them. Discuss how their actions might make someone else feel.
  • Recognize how to identify the reactions each of their friends might have to the same situation.

Develop emotional regulation

  • Learning emotional regulation is an important skill that helps teens get along better and maintain friendships with their peers.
  • Many times, teens start to develop their own emotional regulation, which lets them take a step back to think about their own emotions before reacting.
  • A more mature approach to being angry might be to consider the circumstances, reasons, or responses that led to a friend’s action.

What you can do to help your teen build healthy relationships.

  • Use movies, books, or other media resources to point out examples of friendships, both good and poor. Remember that nobody is perfect and that relationships require effort and commitment to make them work.
  • Be a role model and surround yourself with healthy, loyal, honest, and considerate friends. Modeling how to interact with others in a healthy manner is a perfect way to guide teens.
  • Open your home to your teen’s friends. This is a great way to get to know your teen’s friends and for you to offer insight into the friendships. Know your boundaries.

Read more about your teen's changing relationships.