Can a Teen Spend Too Much Time with Friends?

How much time with friends is too much?
Hans Neleman / Taxi / Getty Images

As children turn into teenagers, there’s often a dramatic shift in the way they spend their time. No longer wanting to spend every minute with parents, it’s perfectly normal for adolescents to prefer time with peers over time with parents.

While there are a few circumstances where it’s important to limit your teen’s time with friends, for the most part, increased socialization is normal. In fact, time spent with other teens can be an integral part of your teen’s development.

Normal Adolescent Development

Friendships become particularly important during the tween years. Then, by the time tweens turn into teens, peers often take precedence over family. Spending time with friends is essential to a teen’s social, emotional, and sexual development.

As your teen begins to form his own identity – separate from yours – friends will help him discover who he is. Friends can help your teen experiment with different personas, roles, and values and help him discover new things about himself.

Friends can help your teen develop confidence. Because they can relate to the things you’re teen is going through – family discord, romantic turmoil, and puberty to name to a few – your teen will likely find solace in talking to his friends. Friendship provides teens with a sense of belonging, which is vital to their self-worth.

Letting Go of Your Teen

Watching your teen trade in family time for friend time is likely to bring up a lot of emotions.

While letting go stirs up a sense of grief for some parents, others experience a lot of anxiety.

If you are thinking of limiting your teen’s time with friends, make sure your decision is based on the best interest of your teen, not what makes you feel most comfortable. Letting go of your teen can be hard to do, but preventing your teen from being with friends may not be the healthiest solution.

Finding the Right Balance

While there’s usually no need to impose major restrictions that force your teen to endure family time, there are steps you can take to encourage your teen to reserve some time for family. Here are a few tips:

  • Let friends come to your home. If your teen is always out with pals, suggest they congregate in your home. Let your teen invite a few friends over for dinner or let your teen host a party. It can give you an opportunity to get to know your teen’s friends a little bit better while also provide you with a chance to see your teen.
  • Pick a few family activities for your teen to attend. It’s OK to make your teen’s attendance at some activities mandatory – like a gathering with extended family, a family vacation, or the occasional family fun night. Be open to doing the activities your teen enjoys as well, and you’ll increase the likelihood he’ll want to take part in family adventures.
  • Make your time together count. Quality time is more important than the quantity of time you spend together. Rather than waste the time in front of the TV or using your other electronics, make your time with your teen count. Whether you’re eating dinner or washing dishes together, give your teen your undivided attention.
  • Communicate when you’re apart. There are ways to stay connected, even when you’re not together. Email, text, or use social media to communicate. Just be sure that you aren’t constantly interrupting your teen’s time with friends, or you may push your teen away even more.

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