Get Your Teen Magazine in your inbox! Sign Up
Logo
Get Print Edition

Forget Romance and Valentines: Girlfriends Are What You Really Need

Forget romance and valentines. Girlfriends are what you really need.

Today is a day for celebrating your lady friends. But let’s be honest: We’re not willing to settle for just one day to celebrate our friends.

Any day is a good day for friends who just get it.

Parenting teenagers is an entirely different challenge than parenting babies or toddlers, even with the best kids. They don’t want to be with you much anymore. They make mistakes—sometimes really big, painful ones. They reject you. They rebel against you. Suddenly you’re embarrassing, annoying, and stupid. The baby that you watched while he slept and whose head scent you inhaled after baths? Sooner or later he will snarl “I hate you!” And you may be scared to reach out for fear of violating your teenager’s privacy or alienating other parents who may judge your teenager as a bad influence, or simply because you don’t know another soul who has gone the same thing with their teenager.

Ugh, let’s face it:  Raising teenagers can be lonely.

And many of us are already lonely. A recent study by UC San Diego researchers found that 75 percent of Americans experience moderate to high levels of loneliness. One of three peak periods of loneliness identified by researchers was for men and women alike in their 50s, a period defined for many as one of transition, menopause/andropause, and midlife crisis.

There’s even more evidence why girl’s night is just as important as those yearly physicals: People who don’t have strong friendships tend to be more depressed, have later-life cognitive decline, and were more likely to die at a younger age. Researchers at Brigham Young University studied the lives of 309,000 people and found that a lack of strong social ties increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50%, about the same effect as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.

And friends make you feel good.

In 2016, Japanese researchers found evidence that hanging out with friends can increase production of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that our bodies make when we’re happy. Studies have proven that oxytocin can make people friendlier, more trusting, and more generous, all the things you value in friends.

Of course, we love our spouses and our families. But psychologist William Chopik from Michigan State University found that friendships are a stronger predictor of health and happiness than relationships with family members. “Keeping a few really good friends around can make a world of difference for our health and well-being,” says Chopik. “So, it’s smart to invest in the friendships that make you happiest.”

So having friends is good for your mental and physical health. But what if we’re feeling short on gal time during the crazy years when we have jobs, teenagers to drive to orthodontist appointments, weekend hockey tournaments, never-ending laundry, and a million other things to do? Here are a few thoughts.

1. Volunteer

Whether it is at your teenager’s school, or sports, or orchestra, there are other women there doing exactly the same thing. If you look around at the bleachers, the auditorium seats, or the sign-up table at school night, you will most likely find other women looking to meet and make friends.

2. Girls’ weekend

The women who knew you before you were a wife or mother are the relationships that sustain you through all the phases of your life. People move, jobs change, kids graduate, the annual Christmas card or Facebook post isn’t the same as sharing a glass of wine and laughing yourself silly over something you remember from when you were 19. If friendships are more influential on our happiness and health than even family relationships, it’s worth taking the time to make plans to be with friends who knew you back when.

3. Church/civic groups

Join a group at your church or in your city. These are friendships that can reflect your interests apart from your kids, join together woman from a variety of ages, and sustain you even after your kids graduate and leave home.

4. Sports

Being a good mother means taking care of yourself, too. Join a running club, yoga studio, gym, or spin class. Having an interest in common is one of the soundest bases of friendship.

We thought you'd also like:

The teen years are frenetic, complicated, thrilling, agonizing, bewildering—and then suddenly, they’re over. These are the years when we need our BFFs more than ever.

Jane Parent

Jane Parent is senior editor of Your Teen.