Remember how high school felt like one big popularity contest?
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While the stereotypical adolescent dream is to accumulate as many friends as possible, new research suggests teens who take the opposite approach may have more-fulfilling adulthoods.
As reported by Quartz, the journal of Child Development released a study finding that teenagers who reported an intense, close friendship exhibited greater self-worth and less social anxiety at age 25 than their more popular peers.
Social structure has tremendous psychological effects on teenagers (shocker), and while you may consider their friendships outside your parental jurisdiction, there are ways you can help them form closer bonds with a smaller circle.
Explain the Difference Between Likeability and Status
The new findings echo past studies, which uncovered a divide in the definition of "popularity". Students who are "likeable" are genuinely admired and trusted by their peers, while students who seek "status" seek to create social hierarchies that grant them power. Guess which group winds up feeling more secure?
Chances are, come primary school, your teenager may come to you with their anxieties over fitting in and being popular. That first conversation is an ideal time to explain the difference between earning trusted friendships and weaponising perceived friendships for social standing.
Temptation will be present early on for teens to trade gossip or rumours for quick cliquish acceptance, so point to the payoff of the more patient route of trustworthiness: A future of deep, meaningful friendships and enduring health.
Foster Real Friendships
If a close friendship seems to be blossoming between your teen and a peer, do your best to encourage it to grow further: Invite the friend on a family holiday, encourage your kid to confide in their friend in moments of difficulty, and try to establish a bond with the friend's parents.
In the long run, your teenager will be more grateful for those experiences than they will be for a trendy purchase that helps them ascend the social ladder.
Keep an Eye on How Social-Building is Evolving
The drawback to the study was that it began before the proliferation of smartphones and social media, which have changed the way teens socialise considerably.
Regardless, whatever mechanisms are used for socialising, they don't transcend the divide between "likeability" and "status". Help your teen understand that the social interactions that occur in a digital setting still apply to the foundation of character, which can reap long-term rewards if approached correctly.