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15 Jan. 2021

Adolescents: Peers & Friendships

As we grow and learn to expand our relationships, many people influence who we are and how we perceive ourselves and others. During our adolescence, we start spending more time with our own age groups who become our peers and friends. We become more aware of the different values and beliefs people hold. It is a time when we learn to socialize and understand where we fit in. Hence, starting with our peers and friends we become a part of the society.

Now, who are these peers that start influencing the way we are and the way we live? Peers are people who are our classmates or people of our age. They may or may not be our friends, but they have an influence on us directly or indirectly. Peers form our perception with their different or similar ideas, beliefs, likes and dislikes in music/food/activities/ways of dressing and talking. Sometimes we might desire to be part of groups depending on interests and beliefs and it might make peer pressure a powerful force. This force can be negative as well as positive, and it can also create a lot of anxiety. Therefore, it is important to establish our own identity with a foundation in self-awareness and self-compassion.

Further, within these peers’ close friendships form and become the primary source of social support. It can create a buffer and a protective shield against negative life events strengthening our resilience i.e. bouncing back from adverse events. But if we do not feel socially connected it might pose serious threats to our well-being also. Therefore, it is important to establish a positive relationship with peers and from close friendships.

Why do we need our friendships?

Apart from our familial relationships, close friendships help us with our need for belonging and acceptance as social beings. It provides us with a sense of security and gives us a feeling of being a valued member of society. This in turn helps us become more confident in our journey through life.

Also, during adolescence there are various changes due to puberty (physical and emotional). Sharing our experiences about these changes with peer groups/friends provides us with support and comfort as they go through similar experiences. Our peers and friends are also a window to understanding the world and the people in it with their different values, identities and interests.

How do we make friends among our peers if we are shy?

Everyone is different, some are outgoing while others might be shy and introverts. If you have trouble making friends and feel stressed, there are some things you can do to build relationships. But if you are content, then let things happen on their own.

● Join hobby clubs, extracurricular activities as engaging with people with similar interests is a great way to break barriers and build confidence to further the relationships.

● Plan group activities with people like board games, watching a movie, playing some sport etc.

● Think about a part-time community service as a volunteer. It improves our social competence and understanding of the ways of life.

● Figure out if there are other issues which make it difficult for you to make friends and reach to your family or ask for professional advice.

● Figure out if there are other issues which make it difficult for you to make friends and reach to your family or ask for professional advice.

For Guardians: How do we help our children build friendships?

Adolescents may spend most of their time with peers and friends but still it is important for us guardians and family members to help & support children to build and maintain positive and supportive friendships.

● Establish a friendly relationship with your child. It might instil in them confidence in dealing with friends and peers.

● Stay connected, have conversations about friends and peers and actively listen to their social stories. The child in case of toxic friendships and pressures may reach out to you for support.

● Stay connected, have conversations about friends and peers and actively listen to their social stories. The child in case of toxic friendships and pressures may reach out to you for support.

● Stay connected, have conversations about friends and peers and actively listen to their social stories. The child in case of toxic friendships and pressures may reach out to you for support.

In conclusion one has to understand that adolescence is a time wherein peers start gaining great importance. However it is important to know that not all peers and friendships have a positive effect on us and we need to make balance by becoming self-aware.