Peer Problems

Confident teen girl Heading to Class
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A teen's peers can challenge your child to do better and grow, or they can hurt your kid through giving and taking away their friendship, bullying or even rebellious behavior. Here is how some parents have helped their teens through this difficult relational time: 

Conversation Cues

Whenever I heard my daughter speak to her friends, her response had little to do with what they were talking about. So when she and I were alone, I pointed out that being a good friend meant being a good listener.

I reminded her to:

  • Make eye contact with the person talking. This forced her to give the speaker her undivided attention.
  • Give a short response whenever someone finished speaking — even if it was just to say "cool" or "bummer" — to let the person know she was listening to him or her.

By practicing these two habits, my daughter slowly became a more engaged listener and a better friend.

—Heather Pike

No-Gossip Guidelines

I tell my kids that before they offer an opinion, especially about their friends, they should ask themselves three questions:
  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it kind?
  3. How would I feel if it was said to or about me?

If their answers are negative to any of those questions, they need to keep their opinion to themselves. By doing that, they have become more trustworthy friends.

—Sandra Samoska

Losing a Relationship

One of my daughter's best friends suddenly ended their friendship. Although my daughter didn't know the reason behind the loss, she wrote a letter of apology, seeking forgiveness and restoration. The letter went unacknowledged — the friendship was unsalvageable.

During my daughter's grief, I encouraged her to remember the good parts of the friendship and reminded her that friends must desire restoration for it to occur. I helped her process the stages of grief, as if a death had occurred, offering affirmation and encouragement.

—Candy Arrington

A Friendship Attitude

Ten-year-old Abby got in the car, tossed her bag in back and slumped in her seat.

"A new girl's trying to steal Sarah away," my daughter complained. "She wants to be Sarah's best friend."

I knew a teachable moment when I saw one. So I told Abby, "Sometimes the best way to love a friend is to share her with others. Sarah has blessed your life. Let her bless other girls' lives, too."

My daughter is learning to adjust her attitude. When she feels insecure, we talk. I've challenged her to say and think kind thoughts about this other girl and to occasionally even compliment her so that every action isn't seen through a negative light. This has helped Abby learn to put herself in another's shoes. Slowly, all three girls have become friends.

—Rebecca Lynn Dikeman

Risk Unpopularity

Lynsey earned a lead in her high school play. During the first rehearsal, she discovered that her character would have an affair with a married man. Since adultery violates the Ten Commandments, Lynsey explained her convictions to the director and relinquished the role. Her peers ridiculed her decision.

Lynsey's father, Paul, stood by his daughter's decision and told her, "If you choose to follow Christ, you're going to risk being the unpopular person, but there may be a friend or two who later look back and remember your courage for Christ." On the play's closing night, one friend quietly told Lynsey, "I respect you. I was uncomfortable with this play but didn't have the nerve to say it."

—Brenda Nixon

Characteristics of a Toxic Friend

  • Is possessive and jealous
  • Puts other friends down
  • Gossips
  • Encourages secrecy and destructive behaviors
  • Lacks a sense of give-and-take
  • Discourages time with family
  • Doesn't practice healthy conflict; fights dirty

What the Bible Says About Friendship

  • 1 Corinthian 15:33
  • Proverbs 13:20
  • Proverbs 22:24-25
  • John 15:13

—Tammy Darling


"Conversation Cues" and "No-Gossip Guidelines" first appeared in the February/March 2019 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. "Losing a Relationship" first appeared in Focus on Your Child Teen Phases, February/March 2008. "A Friendship Attitude" first appeared in the February/March 2019 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. "Risk Unpopularity" first appeared in Focus on Your Child Teen Phases, May/June 2007. "Characteristics of a Toxic Friend" first appeared as a sidebar in the February 2014 issue of Thriving Family magazine. The compiled article "Peer Problems" first appeared on FocusOnTheFamily.com (2016). If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get this publication delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.

"Conversation Cues" © 2019 by Heather Pike. "No-Gossip Guidelines" © 2019 by Sandra Samoska. "Losing a Relationship" © 2008 by Candy Arrington. "A Friendship Attitude" © 2019 by Rebecca Lynn Dikeman. "Risk Unpopularity" © 2007 by Brenda Nixon. "Characteristics of a Toxic Friend" © 2013 by Tammy Darling. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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