Back today with our friendship series for children ages 10-15. Today we are talking about twelve and thirteen year olds.
Twelve-year-olds often have an increased ability to separate from their parents at this age, to really say what they do or don’t want to participate in with the family, and this really extends into their friendships. Twelve is much calmer than age eleven for the most part, although groups of twelve-year-olds can be difficult to manage for teachers and others.
Many twelve-year-olds are branching out to a larger group of friends, and most of the relationships are calm. Friendships that break apart may just sort of drift apart and away, rather than have some sort of traumatic fight. Twelve year olds are interested in more than themselves, and may be actually intersted in how a friend feels or thinks. Twelve year olds are better at taking responsibility for their own feelings and their own part in relationship situations that go awry.
What you can do to help: Since twelve can be more of a harmonious time with friendships and things may just be going along with an established group of friends, I think there isn’t as much work to do in terms of individual friendships but there can be work to be done regarding what happens in groups. Talk about bullying and exclusion, and how groups of people can put people down. Talk about how each person in a group is an individual and how not to lump people all together. These are important conversations to have.
Thirteen year olds are often nicer away from home than at home, and can be quite serious and moody. Some thirteen-year-olds really withdraw and are not as interested in friends, which I think can be fine so long as they are not withdrawing into video games and social media. Please think hard about giving your thirteen-year-old a phone!
Thirteen-year-olds are likely to get annoyed or irritable more than straight out angry. Some will walk out of a room instead of saying something mean; some will say the first mean and angry thing that comes to their mind. Under all of this, thirteen-year-olds are typically quite sensitive, both at home and in outside friendships. Rather than seeing their friends as a “group,” now the thirteen-year-old often sees each friend as a separate human being that could or could not be part of a group and wonder if that person could be a close friend outside of the group. Some girls will have a small group of two or three friends. Thirteen-year-olds can be quite criticizing with one another. Girls often share “deep secrets” while boys still hang around in a gang of four or five friends and don’t have the need to really confide anything too deep.
What you can do to help: A thirteen-year-old girl may be mortified to talk about the move from friends to other intimate relationships romantic relationships) , but depending upon your child it can be a good time to broach the subject of emotional intimacy in relationships; the idea of bullying can extend into the idea of bullying (abuse) in a romantic relationship, and how we should treat others and expect to be treated in a romanctic relationship. This can be an important conversation for some children who you see having interest.
You can have conversations around how we treat those who are really our friends, how we repair relationships when we feel criticized or made fun of, and the idea of different temperaments and personalities in the world and how different activities may be appealing to different friends. I often talk to my children about how as adults we have friends who enjoy different things, and how I don’t always call the same friend to do the same thing. One friend may love the opera, one may not. One friend may love to golf and want to go and one may not. One may be the friend you can really tell all your deep things too, and others may not. But, they can still all be our friends in some capacity,and it is up to us to choose do we only want the “deep dark secret” friend or do we also want a few friends based on the individuality of different people that is coming out in teens of this age.
Thirteen-year-olds do not need phones or social media. They will often use it, mainly the girls, to post pictures of themselves and perhaps their “deep dark secret friend” and often make other friends feel excluded. Social media is not for children with immature frontal lobe development (which is all of them at this point! Trick statement). They just don’t tend to make good choices and think things through. Talking to your children about social exclusion and social exclusion on social media is an important conversation. Here is a good article about social exclusion and this article about 9 Ways to Help Your Child Deal with Social Exclusion and Friendship Breakups is also a good one.
Talk to your thirteen-year-olds about how sometimes you feel really close to someone, but the friendship ends suddenly. Talk about how to listen and how to end frienships gracefully, and how to have more than one or two friends so if something does go awry and the friendship ends, your child will not feel as if they no longer have any friends at all. Diversification can be important for some children at this age. Friends often change over time, and even if your child has been friends with someone since they tiny, it may or may not work out to be a life-long friend. And that’s okay. Put energy into the new, not the old and teach your children that.