Teenagers face many challenges unique to their age group. One major challenge for teens is social problems, specifically conflicts with friends and peers, bullying, and social exclusion. Parents may sometimes feel that these social problems take over their teen’s life.
Parents may have different views on what constitutes a social problem. Some parents recognize the importance of their teen’s problem, while others may consider these problems a typical part of being a teenager. It is important for parents to understand the problem from the teen’s perspective. To teenagers, social problems can be a big deal, since friends and peers play a large role in their lives.
Teenagers react differently to problems and stressful situations. Some may become very distressed, while others may seem less bothered. As a parent, it is helpful to figure out how to best respond to your teen. If your teen doesn’t seem concerned by social problems, it is still important that they receive parental support. Research has shown that teens who do not seem as distressed by difficult situations may be more likely to display aggression and risky behaviors. For teens who are less responsive to social difficulties, parents can help their teens by encouraging pro-social friendships, discouraging deviant friendships, providing specific advice on how to respond to challenging social situations, teaching problem-solving strategies, helping them think about the situation from the other person’s perspective, and encouraging them to seek advice from others. Parents who use these approaches with these teens help contribute to more positive peer relationships, including greater acceptance and higher quality friendships, and less negative peer experiences, such as reduced peer rejection.
For teenagers who become very distressed by social problems, parents should use different approaches. Research has demonstrated that for more stressed out teens, parents should give their teens more autonomy, help them identify what works for them, and give them time and space calm down and process their emotions related to the social difficulties. Teens who are more distressed may need more time and space to process their social challenges before receiving advice from parents. However, it is important that parents check-in with how their teens are doing.
Parents who are aware of their teen’s emotions and reactions to social problems will be more capable of identifying what strategies will be effective in helping them manage difficult social situations.
Author: Alana Summers, M.A.