The teen years are extremely critical in a person’s life.
This is when we all learn to relate to others, and learn about frienships, and the realities of life. It’s extremely rare for a friendship made in the teen years to last a lifetime, but, when it does, those friendships usually remain rewarding for both for the entire life of the friendship.
When dealing with different friendships during our teen years, this is when we also learn about toxic relationships, and how to deal with them. If a teen comes from a dysfunctional household or hasn’t been given the proper tools to deal with life and relationships, those toxic friendships can take a toll on a teen’s self-esteem, psyche, and even negatively affect their lives for many years to come.
I am reminded of a friend I had in highschool, who was absolutely toxic to me. This girl came from an extremely dysfunctional home, had many self-esteem issues, and she did a lot of risk-taking. We met in Algebra class, had enough in common that we began “hanging out” during lunch breaks and after school.
Before too long, she and I were skipping school together, getting into trouble, partying, and doing many other things that teens have no business doing. My parents tried desperately to warn me of the toxicity of the relationship, but it wasn’t until the girl stole my boyfriend, and began stealing money, clothes, etc. from me, that I finally realized that the friendship was toxic.
I quickly learned that “Best” friends aren’t found or made overnight, that just because you care about someone, doesn’t mean you can stay in contact with them, and that you can’t “fix” another person or their problems. Many years have passed, and I haven’t talked to her in almost 10 years.
I often think about her and wonder how her life has turned out. I am tempted, on occasion, to try to contact her, just to find out. But then I remember how toxic the friendship was, how it wasn’t really a friendship at all, and I stop myself. I keep her in my thoughts and prayers, live my life the best I can, and move on.
Then there are those few, rare friendships, that you make in your teen years, which last a lifetime… I have a few of those friendships as well. These are the friends you know you could call on to help if you needed something, no matter how long it had been since you last spoke to them or saw them.
Those friendships are mutually fulfilling, and you often learn something from those friendships. I’ve learned from these friendships; unconditional love, how to “be there” for someone else, unconditional acceptance, and just the pure, simple joy of having friends that you know you can count on.
The teen years are such a time of upheaval… You’ve got hormones raging, your very values and raising are called into question (by yourself, your friends, and others!), you have choices to make between right and wrong, and decisions to make about your future.
It’s no wonder that friendships during the teen years can be so complicated! There are many life lessons to be learned from teen friendships, and if parents/guardians give their teens the proper tools to handle it, then even problematic friendships can be teaching tools.
My friend that I mentioned above, taught me a lot about standing up for what I know is right, not following the crowd, and having a healthy enough self-esteem to be able to step back and get away from an unhealthy relationship. She also taught me something else important: just because you care deeply about someone, and have many things in common with them, doesn’t mean that you have a true friendship with them.
I carry these lessons with me to this day, and am thankful that I learned them.