How to Teach Teens to Handle Friendship Problems

By Tamara Runzel
Teach your teen to resolve conflicts to keep happy friendships.
Teach your teen to resolve conflicts to keep happy friendships.

The teen years are probably some of the most social of your child’s life while she is still at home. With the increased social activity, though, comes increased conflict among friends. Whether it’s a disagreement over another friend, a boyfriend or a social activity, the conflict can escalate quickly without the proper tools. It’s your job as parent to teach your teens to handle any friendship problems they might encounter.

Encourage your teen to stop arguing as soon as he finds himself in a disagreement. Explain that trying to resolve the issue while he still feels angry won’t work. Also, teach your teen some tools for cooling down. Possible options for calming down include counting to 10, breathing deeply, or walking away and punching a pillow or something else soft.

Remind your teen to assess the situation. Once your teen is no longer directly in a confrontation, she should consider what the situation is, who's involved and what her problem is with the situation.

Suggest that your teen approach the friend with whom she's having a problem privately. The two of them should talk together without getting others involved. If there are more than two people involved, only those involved should discuss the situation.

Encourage your teen to tell his friend how he feels using “I feel” statements rather than “You” statements. For example, saying, “I feel like you don’t like me because we never hang out anymore,” is a better choice than saying, “You make me feel like you don’t like me anymore because you always hang out with John.”

Teach your teen to have some solutions in mind when she discusses the situation with the other friend. She should offer her solution after explaining how she feels.

Remind your teen to ask the others involved for their perspectives. When your teen listens, he should make eye contact with whoever is speaking -- and not get angry or interrupt.

Ask your teen to affirm his own feelings as well as the feelings of anyone else involved. Explain that even though they might disagree, everyone’s feelings are still valid.

Encourage your teen to try to have his friends work together to come up with a solution to the problem. Explain that they should look at the points on which they agree. Tell you teen that he should keep an open mind when trying to solve the problem with his friends. Remind him that he might need to apologize or forgive someone to maintain the friendship.

Suggest that the teens talk to another adult, such as a teacher or coach, if they can’t resolve the issue themselves. Help your teen recognize that she might have to let friends go if they can’t come to a reasonable agreement -- and the situation becomes stressful and unhealthy.

About the Author

Tamara Runzel has been writing parenting, family and relationship articles since 2008. Runzel started in television news, followed by education before deciding to be a stay at home mom. She is now a mom of three and home schools her two oldest children. Runzel holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from University of the Pacific.