Friendship Anxiety + Teen Movies | Ep. 148

Friendship Anxiety + Teen Movies | Ep. 148

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Friendship Anxiety: A Guide for Teens and Parents

If you are experiencing friendship anxiety, you are not alone!

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the pressure to fit in and maintain a wide circle of friends. And let’s be honest, social media instills us all with FOMO. After all, it seems like everyone is having a great time. And if you’re not there, do you even have friends at all?

The more connected we are, the more we can feel disconnected and anxious about whether or not we are living up to expectations.

Fortunately, there are strategies to cope with friendship anxiety and cultivate healthy relationships.

Understanding Friendship Anxiety

Friendship anxiety can manifest in various ways, whether it’s stress about finding friends, feeling left out in social situations, or dealing with the dynamics of existing friendships. Interestingly, studies have shown that humans have a natural limit to our social networks. This is often referred to as “Dunbar’s number.” According to Dunbar’s number, we can maintain stable relationships with around 150 individuals. However, in today’s digital age, teens are exposed to far more connections, especially through social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

For teens who are already prone to people-pleasing or have developmental sensitivities, the pressure to navigate social interactions can be particularly intense. The constant need to monitor where their friends are, how they’re perceived online, and the fear of missing out can make friendship anxiety even worse.

Advice for Teens with Friendship Anxiety

Put Yourself Out There

Engage in activities or join clubs where you can meet like-minded peers.

Finding opportunities to connect with others who share similar interests is a fantastic way to break the ice and make new friends. Whether you’re passionate about sports, arts, or academics, there’s likely a club or group where you can meet people who share your enthusiasm. Joining a sports team not only provides a platform for physical activity but also allows you to connect with teammates. Similarly, participating in hobby groups or extracurricular activities allows you to bond with others over shared interests. It might sound scary, but even something as simple as striking up conversations with classmates during lunch breaks or study sessions can lead to lasting friendships. By putting yourself in social situations that match your interests, you increase the likelihood of finding friends who appreciate your unique qualities.

Practice Social Scripts

If initiating conversations feels daunting…

Socializing can be intimidating, especially if you’re unsure of what to say or how to start a conversation. Practicing social scripts can be incredibly beneficial. Take the time to think about common conversation starters or topics of interest, and rehearse them either alone or with a trusted adult. By familiarizing yourself with potential dialogue scenarios, you can alleviate some of the anxiety associated with initiating conversations. Remember, it’s okay to start with simple greetings or compliments, and gradually build rapport from there. Having a script as a guide can boost your confidence and make social interactions feel more natural and effortless.

Create Healthy Boundaries

If a particular friendship is causing significant anxiety or distress…

Not all friendships are meant to last, and that’s okay!

If you find yourself feeling consistently anxious or drained by a particular relationship, it may be time to reevaluate its dynamics. Creating healthy boundaries involves recognizing your own needs and prioritizing your well-being. This could mean taking a step back from a friendship that no longer serves you or setting clear expectations for how you want to be treated. Remember, quality trumps quantity when it comes to friendships, so focus on building relationships that make you feel good about yourself and support you. Surround yourself with people who respect your boundaries and encourage you to be the best version of yourself.

(Listen to episode 17 on BFFs.)

Embrace Alone Time

Recognize the importance of taking breaks and recharging your social batteries.

In a world that glorifies constant connection, it’s easy to overlook the value of time alone. However, spending time alone can be refreshing and essential for maintaining overall well-being. Embrace moments of solitude as opportunities to reflect, recharge, and indulge in activities that bring you joy. Whether it’s reading a book, going for a walk, or simply enjoying your own company, prioritize self-care and make time for activities that nourish your soul.

Remember, alone time isn’t a sign of isolation; it’s a valuable opportunity to reconnect with yourself and cultivate a deeper sense of self-awareness.

Learn to Say No

You don’t have to attend every social event or be friends with everyone.

It’s natural to want to please others and avoid disappointing them, but it’s essential to recognize your limits and prioritize your well-being. Learning to say no, whether it’s declining an invitation or setting boundaries with friends, is a crucial skill that fosters self-respect and autonomy. You are not obligated to attend every social event or be friends with everyone you encounter. It’s okay to decline invitations or politely decline requests that don’t align with your interests or values. Asserting boundaries usually makes you look cool, because everyone longs for that kind of self-respect. It also helps cultivate healthy, fulfilling relationships based on mutual understanding and respect.

When you respect yourself, others usually follow suit.

(Read about teaching teens the power of no.)

Offer Support

If a friend is going through a tough time…

True friendship goes beyond the good times; it’s about being there for each other in good times and bad. If a friend is facing challenges or going through a difficult period, don’t hesitate to reach out and offer your support. You don’t have to have all the answers or solve their problems, but lending a listening ear and showing empathy can make a world of difference. It’s enough to let them know that they’re not alone. Sometimes, all it takes is knowing that someone cares to you feel better when times are hard. Your support can make a profound impact and strengthen the bonds of friendship.

Advice for Parents
  1. Stay Curious
    Check in on your teen’s friendships regularly and ask open-ended questions about their social experiences. Show genuine interest and offer support without judgment.

  2. Provide a Safety Net
    Be the “fall guy” if your teen needs an excuse to opt out of social situations that trigger anxiety. Establish code words or phrases that signal when they need a graceful exit.
  3. Model Healthy Boundaries
    Teach your teen the importance of setting boundaries in friendships and lead by example. Encourage open communication and validate their feelings when they express discomfort in certain relationships.
  4. Avoid Comparison
    Refrain from comparing your teen’s friendships to your own or those of others. Each person’s social journey is unique, and it’s essential to respect their individual experiences.
  5. Offer Empathy
    Be there for your teen when they’re struggling with friendship anxiety. Listen attentively, offer reassurance, and provide a supportive presence whenever they need to talk.

Also in this episode:

  • The history and fun facts of Leap Year.
  • Teen movies might not all be accurate, but some can offer insight into teen culture.

In this episode, we mentioned or used the following resources about friendship anxiety.

Have a question?

If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!

More Resources You Might Like

Episode 58: Talking with Teens about Connection
Podcast Episode 77: Apologizing and Taylor Swift
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About Us

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Tobin Hodges

Tobin Hodges

Program Director

Caleb Hatchett

Caleb Hatchett

Podcast Host

5 Positive Ways to Deal with Parents

5 Positive Ways to Deal with Parents

We see a lot of teens in Support Groups and if there’s a recurring theme, it’s that dealing with parents can be tough!

The crazy thing is the same issues that frustrate teens often frustrate adults. Life is completely different for teens than it was for adults at the same age, but there are a lot of aspects of communication that haven’t changed.

If you are a parent, it can be hard to see your teen’s side of things or how they are trying to communicate.

Parents and teachers complain most often about behavior, but a lot of times, the adults aren’t listening or allowing teens to explain.

If you are a teen here are some tips if you’re having trouble communicating with your parent(s).

Wait for the right time.

This may be difficult depending on how much your parent works or other factors. But it will come. Sometimes you can help make it the right time. Get them their favorite treat, drink, or sit and watch their favorite show with them. The effort you put in will be worth it when the result is a positive conversation.

Do things before you are asked.

This one isn’t immediately appealing because you are still doing what they want. BUT if you get annoyed because they bug you to mow the lawn or clean your room, it is worth it. If you do it before they ask, it saves you the hassle of an annoying argument or fight. You both win.

Don’t push their buttons.

Facts. If you know how to annoy the adults in your life in under five minutes, it just shows how close you are. However, it doesn’t mean you are in control. You might feel like you’re in control, but it’s guaranteed to cause you more losses than wins. Instead, take that knowledge and use it to get what you really want. Better communication.

Don’t let them push yours.

Fun fact. The adults in your life know how to push your buttons too. You get to decide if you will allow it or not. You can choose not to be annoyed- or at least not to act on it. While it’s true that adults should, well, be adults, we all know that sometimes that just doesn’t happen. But if you don’t let it stress you out, you’re guaranteed to feel better.

Think ahead.

Recognize potential hazards and plan ahead what you can say or do when they come along. Or even better, avoid them if you can. This is hard. You might need a trusted adult like a school counselor or another trusted adult to help you talk this one out.

Also note: this doesn’t not apply to situations where an adult is harming you or failing to keep you safe. If you are not safe at home, or with any adult, you need to tell someone you trust and get help. It’s not on you to avoid abuse.

You can’t keep every argument from happening and not all parents are always reasonable. But most parents want a good relationship with their kids. They want to understand and communicate better.

Maybe this will help.


What are other ways you can deal with parents in a positive way?

Teen Say

How can I get the adults in my life to care and not lecture?

  • Be intentional about when you talk to them- especially when you bring up tough topics. A lot of time, their emotional state or reaction isn’t about you! It’s about other things that you might not be aware of.
  • If needed, ask someone to mediate a conversation between you and the adult that you feel frustrated with.

Adults Say

How can I connect with teens and get them to open up to me?

  • Be available
  • Be yourself
  • Connect during the good times so you have that background during hard conversations. Look for ways to just have fun with no agenda!

Ep. 58: Talking With Teens About Connection

Ep. 58: Talking With Teens About Connection

 Listen & Subscribe


Summer is a great time to start conversations with your teen! Use the extra time with them while they are home to get curious and ask open-ended questions.

To help, we’ve designed this series to be a quick, fun way to get everyone talking. Listen together with your teen, or by yourself. You might be surprised at how willing teenagers are to talk when they get started!

In episode 58, Chris and Karlie discuss social connections and how to talk with teens about how connected they feel.

How close do you feel to other people?

Talk through these with your teen after this podcast ends!

  • Who do you feel close to?
  • What could you do to feel closer to the people in your life?
  • What can I do to better connect with you?
Have a question? If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!
About Us:
Chris Robey

Chris Robey


Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and has always had a heart for teenagers and the vulnerable life stage they are in. She has a wealth of experience to share from working with teens in ministry and leading support groups.

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If you’re present, they will come.

If you’re present, they will come.

In March of 2020, I knew the names of a lot of my neighbors. We’d lived in our house for over 4 years, and we’d always walked a lot around our neighborhood. We have the kind of neighborhood where a lot of people sit on their front porch or stop us to ask if the boys would like to pet their dog. So, we probably knew the names of a few people on every street- in a casual, hello and goodbye sort of way.

I knew the names of my immediate neighbors but rarely saw them for more than a few minutes at a time.

And then suddenly, we were home. And all we had to do was walk. As a consequence, we were always outside, and very often, if we weren’t walking, we were camped out in our garage or on our driveway.

If anyone appeared in our alleyway for any reason, we were ready with enthusiastic hellos and nothing but time.

It didn’t happen overnight.

But in a long series of waves and hellos, we made friends. They brought their vacation pictures from 20 years ago to show us the time they were in Rome. We traded halves of cakes, loaves of bread, and cups of sugar.

We watched the people on our street change and new people arrived. There we were with baked goods and enthusiastic hellos, and more to the point, availability.

We don’t know everyone the same, but our relationships are deeper. More meaningful. More connected.

Somewhere in the middle, people went back to the office or back to restaurants and stores, but they also started coming over and cracking the front door to call in when they knew we were home. People who have little in common with us except for location became friends.

I tell you this story to say this:

You may feel like you have nothing in common with teens. Like they don’t want you around or don’t want to talk. But the number one quality that will draw them in and keep them coming back is availability.

Your un-pressured, unhurried, undivided presence.

It may seem impossible for any number of reasons. But if you build it, they will come.

Make tea, grab a book, and wait where they will be, ready with an enthusiastic hello and nothing but time.

Our CEO, Chris Robey, was talking about tech breaks recently. One day, he was walking into a support group he was leading when he realized he had left his phone in his car by accident. He usually set his phone to “do not disturb”. However, he found that he was more present and a better listener without it. He wasn’t wondering whether he needed to answer a text or how much time they had left. In short, he was more available, physically and mentally.

After that group, he started leaving his phone on purpose. If it’s as easy as removing the distraction, why not?

A huge part of availability is removing distractions and showing up!

Here are a few tips for setting the stage:

  • Set aside time every day that you aren’t looking at your phone.
  • Don’t take it personally if it seems like they don’t have time or don’t care. It definitely matters to them, but sometimes, at the moment, they don’t recognize it.
  • Be wherever your teen will find you. Pick a common area where you can read a book, fold laundry, do a crossword puzzle, or do anything else that doesn’t require a screen. If you aren’t present, it’s harder to be available. As a bonus, slowing down sets a great example and is good for your mental health.
  • Create opportunity. Invite your teen to do something they enjoy regularly. Ask them for help with something you don’t know how to do. Ask them to go for a walk around the block. If you continue to seek them out, they are more likely to do the same.
  • Be emotionally present. When appropriate, talk about your feelings and ask them about theirs. Get curious about what makes them tick.
  • Be shock-proof no matter what. You might not get a second chance if they don’t feel like they can trust you with hard things.

​If you haven’t been readily available before now, creating trust will take time. But trust me, if you stay consistent, they will come.

Consider the time you spend now on availability an investment in your relationship. Over the long term, the payoff is most likely better than you expect it will be!

Kelly Fann

Kelly Fann

Digital Media Manager

Kelly has lived in three countries and worked with teens across the world, encouraging them to pursue their passions and to be kind. She’s been refining messages and telling stories for brands and non-profits since 2009.

Gen Z – The Lonely Generation

Gen Z – The Lonely Generation

Our teenagers (Generation Z) are the most connected generation, but they are also the loneliest. Seems contradictory, doesn’t it?

As a Millennial, my early teenage years were defined by wired phone calls, brick cell phones, and dial-up internet. I was a teenager when the iPhone first came on the scene and had my first phone with internet my Freshman year of college. I got Facebook in High School. Instagram gained popularity a few years later. Basically, technology and social media was rapidly changing, but I didn’t have to carry it around with me 24/7 like our current teenagers.

Today’s teens are even more connected than ever with Google, Instagram, Snapchat, FaceTime, TikTok, and messages at their fingertips. But let’s take a look at what it means for our teens who are growing up in a world that never turns off…

In Michele Borba’s book Thrivers, she states the following:
“Welcome to the “running on empty” generation…They are more inclusive and open-minded…They’re well educated with high aspirations for college and their future. But they’re also less happy and more stressed, lonely, depressed, and suicidal when compared with any previous generation – and those descriptions were identified prior to COVID-19 and all the resulting anxiety it produced.”

That is not a fun statement to read, and we are going to break down some more characteristics of Gen Z in Episode 43 of the Teen Life Podcast. Be sure to subscribe in your favorite podcast app or sign up to receive notifications so you won’t miss it! For now, let me give a couple of suggestions for how we can combat the loneliness of this generation.

Listen to understand.
One student in Thrivers said, “We hide our anxiety…It doesn’t work telling our parents because they don’t understand what it’s like to be a kid.” I know that it is easy to compare our teenage experiences with what teens are currently going through, but it isn’t the same. They are living in a world that is completely different from the one you grew up in.

Instead of minimizing their experiences, use this as a chance to listen and ask good questions! Be curious. Resist the urge to give advice if all they are looking for is an empathetic ear.

Model imperfection and boundaries.
A piece of nearly every day is posted online now, and our teens feel the pressure to be “picture-perfect” at all times. The “comparison game” is not a new problem, but now our teens are comparing their worst to the highlight reel of others. Pictures are filtered and feeds are full of celebrities and influencers.

This might seem silly, but make sure that teens know that they are valuable just as they are. They don’t need to filter or fake their life to enjoy it. Pictures and videos do a great job of capturing moments, but make sure you put your phone away sometimes to be fully in the moment! On the other hand, take the picture even if you don’t look your best. Model healthy boundaries and self-esteem with how you interact with social media.

Set aside time to connect.
What combats loneliness better than human connection? Life can get busy but scheduling regular time to connect with your teen can make a huge difference! In a recent podcast episode with my dad, Chris Hatchett, we talked about how he has intentionally made time for me from a young age. The main way he did that while I was in High School was to take me to lunch every week (every teen loves free food!).

Here are some other ways to be intentional with your connection:
• Talk in the car to or from school
• Grab breakfast before school
• Stop by a coffee shop on the weekends
• Do something special on their birthday – bring lunch to school or take them out
• Ride home together from games
• Schedule a meal together weekly or monthly
• Go shopping to find a new outfit
• Do a hobby together – golf, reading, building something, concert, movies, etc.

Teenagers will benefit from your wisdom and advice, but they will thrive when they feel connected and accepted by you! Let’s change the narrative for this generation and bring more connection than loneliness.

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications