Twelve Talks to

Have With Teens


Teen social relationships take place both in person and -- now more than ever-- online, often using social media. Adults can’t control youth friendships, but you can be a role model for positive, respectful relationships and talk with youth about healthy friendships. 

  • Positive social connections with people at all stages in life help ensure healthy development, physically, socially and emotionally. Friendships play an important role in the lives of adolescents as they become increasingly independent and develop their own identity.

  • Evidence suggests that positive friendships in adolescence can lay the groundwork for successful adult relationships, including romantic relationships. 


  • Trusted adults can’t control teens’ relationships, but they have a lot of influence on teens’ friendship choices and the quality of those relationships. Through modeling and support, adults can guide teens toward positive peer relationships.


  • The number one place where teens learn about relationships is in their families. What they learn from and experience with parents and siblings has a lot of influence on how they find and get along with friends.


  • Most teens use some form of social media to build and maintain friendships. It’s important to stay involved in a way that makes teens understand that you respect their privacy but also want to make sure they're safe.

Hear what teens have to say about social media and friends. (3:13)

How to start a conversation

  • Empathically ask about what has changed with friendships:

    • How are your friends staying connected when school is online?​

    • What are your friends doing to socialize without spreading COVID-19 around?

    • What is it like socializing with masks on?

  • A non-judgmental conversation starter can be as simple as:

    • What did you all end up doing last night?​

    • How is {insert friend's name here} these days?

  • Or, ask open-ended questions about how some of the social media sites you aren't familiar with work. For example:  

    • How exactly does SnapChat work? 

    • So, what is the deal with Tinder?


  • Ask teens about their friends — for example: 

    • What do you like best about your friend group? 

    • What kinds of drama or disagreement come up with teens your age? 

    • What are your feelings about your friends at the moment?


  • If you have a challenging or delicate situation with a colleague or friend, tell your teen about it and ask your teen for how they would handle it. You might be surprised by their insights, and model the idea of talking to each other about friendships.

  • When you see examples of negative peer pressure or bullying on TV or in the news, ask teens how they handle things like that at school or with their friends.


  • Discuss how your teen’s friend group handles standing up for each other, including: by deescalating conflicts, by helping diffuse harassment or bullying in person and online, and by stopping unwanted sexual advances.

  • Can We Auto-correct Humanity? is a poem about how social media and human connection-- and watching it with your teen could spark a conversation.

Quick tips

  • Your teen is likely lonely and not sure how to manage social relationships in the age of COVID-19. Talking to your teen about friendship issues, now that so much about socializing has changed, will not change your teens reality, but will help them think about strategies for coping, staying connected, and staying staff. Visit our Talk about COVID-19 page for more suggestions.

  • Concerned that your teen isn't following your rules regarding safer socializing with friends? Check out the ideas on our Boundaries page.

  • Don’t judge your teen’s friends. They may like people you might disapprove of, and finding out why they like them, in a non-judgemental way, could bring you closer and develop trust.

  • If you are worried that your teen’s friend may be a negative influence, share your perspective in a non-threatening way. Focus on concerning behaviors instead of the friend’s personality/character as a whole. For example, instead of calling a friend irresponsible, you could point out the irresponsible behavior, explain why it is concerning and recommend ways to encourage healthy behavior changes. (On the other hand, if you think your teen or their friends might be in danger, call 911 or seek out one of the “Help” resources listed below.)

  • Help teens learn valuable friendship skills by modeling ways to start a conversation with someone new, showing empathy and supporting others in your daily life. 

  • Talk about how you’ve handled peer pressure. Share times you’ve resisted peer pressure, and explain how you handled the situation. Be open to explaining times you were pressured into doing something and how it made you feel.    

  • If a teen does not seem interested in having friends or is spending time in isolation, ask about it. Losing interest in friends may indicate a concern, so it may also be helpful to talk with teachers, their school counselor or others about your concerns.

Things to do

  • Take this quiz to see if you are savvy about your teen’s online social world.

  • Get to know your teens’ friends in a way that your teen is okay with. Talk with your teen about ideas on how to get to know their friends. Most teens love food, and it can be a great way to get to know your teen's friends. Ask if they want you to make or buy some food for friends who might want to come over, or if you can take their friends out for a meal together. 

  • Get to know their friends’ parents/guardians. If your teen is spending time, staying over or going on a trip with another family, call to check in with the parent/guardian who will be with the teens and make sure they know how to get in touch with you.

  • Teen drinking often occurs at house parties. If you go out of town, take these steps to prevent a "house party" from occurring at your home.



  • Create a personalized "Safe to Tell" system by helping your teen add contact information into their phone for an adult they would feel comfortable going to — in addition to you, or even instead of you — if they need guidance or are worried about a friend. For certain issues when they want to get law enforcement involved but remain anonymous, you or your teen might choose to call the Colorado Safe2Tell line (1-877-542-7233).  

  • Love 146 offers resources and information about human trafficking and exploitation, and most importantly, what steps to take as a parent/caregiver to safeguard your teenand others in your community.


  • If you believe your teen would benefit from professional help working through friendship or social issues, please consider accessing the resources on the Boundaries page

Recommended Resource

Rise Above Colorado: How to Rise Above with Confidence


Other Recommended Resources



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* Healthy Kids Colorado Survey 2019, Jefferson County data; **Jefferson County CTC Youth Town Hall data 2019 & 2020.


This project was created by the Jefferson County Communities That Care coalition and is housed within Jefferson County Public HealthThis resource was developed with funding from a Communities That Care grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, a grant from Community First Foundation and a Drug-Free Communities grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the grant providers.