Teenager's Friendships: Falling out with Friends
Between the ages of 11 and 14 a lot of major changes are occurring in your child's life. As well as the onset of puberty there are the issues involved with settling into senior school. At this age it is quite normal for children's friendships to come under pressure.
Reasons Why Friendships Change
There are a few key reasons why friendships tend to change in the first years at senior school and as your children face their early teenage years.
To start with a lot of early friendships are based on how you get along with other parents. Your children are likely to become friends with the children of your friends. As children go through the rapid development and changes of their early teenage years they are likely to start to gravitate towards children they feel they have more in common with. You are far less likely to pick your child up from the school gate at senior school and therefore your influence over their friendships is likely to decline quite quickly. At this stage they start to stand far more on their own two feet.
Starting senior school means that some friendships will be broken up by long time friends going off to separate schools. You may also find your child is put into a different class than their friends. In schools where streaming occurs your child may find they have less and less interaction with their old, established friends.
Another big factor is the onset of puberty. As all children develop at different speeds children that go through puberty early may take on more "grown up" behaviours. This can put distance between them and their earlier friends. When hormones kick in teenagers start to behave a little differently too. Boys with higher testosterone levels may become more dominant than they were previously. Boys that were once considered quiet and passive may now start to fight for their place in the pecking order. This change in behaviour can place a strain on what were previously solid friendships.
Changing Interests Also Play a Part
During this time you are likely to notice your children's interests are becoming more defined. You may not notice the level of change so much if you have sons. There is a good chance that they will have had more defined interests from an earlier stage, such as an obsession with football. With girls you might see a greater level of change. For example they may start to exhibit a greater interest in their appearance. An interest in music also starts to kick in at this stage. This is an interest that tends to sort teenagers into groups and can give them something very important to them in common. This helps to break old ties and create new ones.
Coping with Rapid Change
With everything else going on in their lives at this time it can be hard for younger teenagers to cope with the distancing of other children that they once considered good friends. It is inevitable that through this period some previously strong friendships will start to unravel. It is all part of growing up. This is not likely to be a major issue as long as your child is able to make new friends to replace the declining friendships.
You may also notice that friendships that do endure this period of upheaval or new friendships that are forged at this time are deeper than previous friendships. So it may be a case of your child having a smaller number of friends, but the friends they do have being closer friends. If this does happen you don't really have a lot to worry about.
Helping Your Child to Stay Friends
It is quite likely that there will be friendships that are struggling that your child would like to maintain and restore to their former level. In order for your child to achieve this it can help if you can gain an understanding of how the friend has changed and what new behaviours they have adopted. In order for your child to re-establish the original friendship they are likely to have to share some of their friend's newer interests. If they do not feel they would like to do this then it is unlikely the friendship will survive.
Helping Your Child to Make New Friends
If your child is finding it difficult to replace lost friends then it can help to focus on their interests. Their interests give them something in common with other younger teenagers and this can help them make new friends.
Studies have shown that when looking around for new activity groups for your child to participate in it can help them to make new friends if the activities they take part in are based around a single theme rather than by joining a group that undertakes more varied activities. For example if your child has an interest in drama or music it is likely to be more beneficial to them to join a drama club of music group where they would automatically have something in common with other members of the group then to join a group such as the Girl Guides or Boy Scouts where interests tend to be more varied.
Positive steps you can take include encouraging them to invite new friends to your house. With new friendships it can help them to become established if your child sees new friends on a one to one basis rather than in a group. This will help them to get to know potential friends better than if they meet in groups where it is easier to get a bit left out.
Senior schools normally offer a range of after school clubs in just the same way that junior schools do. Try to get your child involved in at least one of the clubs on offer. As mentioned previously as the clubs tend to be themed your child will be mixing with others that have similar interests and something in common with them.
Dealing with Issues that may Arise
When any child starts to lose friends it can knock their confidence levels. The easy way out is for you to step in and try and act as their new best friend. Although it is undoubtedly helpful to your child to know you are there for them and are their biggest supporter it is still important that they realise you can't fix everything for them. It can also help your child if you give them enough space to develop their own set of friend making skills. This may take a little longer for them to master if you have always been in charge of arranging their social diary.
Although watching your children go through difficult periods is very hard for you it can be helpful to accept this is a period of major change and adjustment and in most cases your child is likely to find their feet soon enough.
Keep a lookout for new social opportunities for your children. If you do get concerned that your child is losing too many friends and these are not being replaced by new ones then it can be a good idea to talk to your child's school to see what they can suggest.