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The Importance of Friends in Teenage Life: How True Friends Help Teens Thrive

From where I’m sitting at my computer, I can hear my daughter Anna upstairs in her bedroom. She’s alone, but she’s laughing and talking animatedly with one of her friends via FaceTime.

I’m not eavesdropping. My daughter knows I’m right here, and she’s not attempting to conceal her conversation, so I can hear the laughter and the general topics these teenagers are covering: school, boys, dance, clothes. I love to hear their back-and-forth dialogue and laughter. It makes my mom heart happy, because I know what I’m really hearing is a friendship being fed.

It took a while for my daughter to find friends like this after her closest school friend changed schools. She had low expectations heading into high school, but I’ve watched from the sidelines as my daughter has made new friends and flourished because of the important qualities they add to her life.

5 Ways that True Friends Feed Our Souls:

1. True friends make each other better.

Anna has a friend who’s new to her life this school year. The girl has struggled with some self-image issues in the past, but recently Anna noticed that her new friend seemed to be happier and steadier. Through another friend of their little group, Anna learned that the change was because of Anna’s influence.

When I found out, I told Anna that this is everything friendship is about and knowing that another person is in a better place because of her is a gift.

2. True friends check up on each other.

Last summer, Anna went kayaking with one of her very best friends. The girls had barely gotten out on the lake when my daughter tipped over and had trouble righting herself. Her friend never left her side and did her best to help, and the girls eventually made it back to shore. But my daughter started to worry about using the much smaller kayak we have at a family lake cottage that’s always a summer destination.

A few weeks later, when we were up at the cottage, that same friend sent my daughter a text: “Have you been out in the kayak yet?”

I loved this friend even more at that moment because she understood where my daughter was mentally. And so, without nagging or pushing too hard, she gently encouraged that forward movement.

3. True friends do life with each other.

My high schooler sits at the breakfast table every morning checking social media and messages on her phone while she eats her bowl of cereal. I’m a big fan of the way technology allows my daughter to feed relationships with friends she only sees in person a few hours a week.

One of my daughter’s new best friends is from a different school, but Anna is in contact with her every day via their phones. They’re not usually having lengthy conversations. Instead, they’re making quick references to inside jokes or sending each up updates about random pieces of their day. This is the stuff of daily life, and, shared regularly, it is also the stuff of real friendship.

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4. True friends are comfortable with each other.

Last summer, my daughter went over to her friend’s house for a pool day. Midway through the afternoon, the host mom, who is a friend of mine, texted me a picture of our daughters. They were in the pool, lying on floats, and both of them were either asleep or very close to it. They weren’t talking or even looking at each other. Yet they were together. They were connecting.

The picture reminded me of another time, one winter day, when my daughter had hung out with this same friend. After I picked her up, I asked what they’d done, and she said, “We took a nap.” Her contentment with this made me think that there’s nothing quite like getting to a place in friendship where “doing nothing” together is all that you need.

5. True friends cheer for each other.

A few weeks ago, both my girls took a long weekend trip to visit their grandparents. They had been looking forward to this mini vacation for months, counting down the days and auditioning swimsuits with a seriousness I can only hope they someday apply to choosing husbands. My older daughter, a college sophomore, told me one of her suitemates was as excited about my daughter’s trip as my daughter was for herself.

Sorrow shared is sorrow subtracted, but joy shared is joy multiplied. This is the math of genuine friendship, and it is a beautiful equation.

Female friendship can be tricky. There are choppy waters to navigate and rough patches to smooth. But this unevenness is part of the package deal of authentic relationship. I want my daughters to set healthy boundaries and to be careful with their hearts. But I also want to cheer them on and coach them not to guard themselves so fiercely that they miss the chance to discover how special and important true friendship can be.

Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two daughters (one teen and one young adult) who regularly dispense love, affection, and brutally honest fashion advice. She writes about faith, food, and family (with some occasional funny thrown in) at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and avoids working on her 100-year-old farmhouse by spending time on Facebook and Twitter.

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