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

Ep. 17: BFFs & Explicit Music

Ep. 17: BFFs & Explicit Music

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It’s no secret that teens place high importance on their friends, but did you know that it’s a need rooted in biology? Don’t miss the conversation on BFFs and why they might be a survival skill for adolescence. Also in this episode, we explore the effect of explicit lyrics on teenagers and how you can help.

Teen Life Summit sessions are no longer available.

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 now is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. She has gained experience working with teenagers through work, volunteer, and personal opportunities.

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5 Conversations to Have As School Starts

5 Conversations to Have As School Starts

I originally wrote this post two years ago with 3 conversation starters, but I want to revisit and add a couple of conversations that I believe will be helpful. So buckle up, school is here!



It is that back-to-school time of the year again!

I can hear the cheers and tears from the Teen Life office. Whether you are looking forward to getting back to a routine, wondering how your baby has grown into a high school senior, or are trying to figure out how your youth ministry is going to hold up against football season – you have a role to play in this upcoming school year!

Before teenagers start back at their middle or high schools, or the graduates leave home to start their college adventures, take time to have bold, encouraging conversations! You have an opportunity to help students set goals and think about where they want to be at the end of this 2018-2019 school year.

By having healthy conversations (check out this blog post), this school year can get off to a great start from the very first day! Here are some goals to help teenagers think about as they start school:



Grades are important. They help you graduate high school and get scholarships for college. They are a reflection of what you have learned and how hard you have worked at a particular subject.

However, grades don’t define your student or their worth. Students will put pressure on themselves about what kind of grades they should be making before you say a word. Instead of starting out the school year with a lecture about responsibility, finishing homework before video games, or the consequences for poor test grades, ask your student these questions:

  • What do you want your grades to look like at the end of this school year?
  • If you improved your grades and school work from last year, what would that look like?
  • How can I help you succeed this school year?

If you allow them to set their own goals, they will take more ownership in their school work. Instead of working toward your expectation, they will be stepping up to the standards they set for themselves – what better lesson could you teach a teenager? Help them set realistic goals and hold them accountable throughout the year with {friendly} reminders. Don’t expect your B student to make a 4.0 this school year, but encourage them to improve and continue to grow!



As you know, friends and peers have a huge influence during teenage years. They can impact grades, decisions, activities and attitude. While they are old enough to choose their own friends, as the adult, it is okay for you guide them in these choices. When it comes to friendships they have at school, start a conversation by asking these questions:

  • What relationship last year provided the most encouragement?
  • How do your friendships impact your performance at school or in extracurriculars?
  • Are their any relationships that provided drama or stress? What can you do to make that relationship healthier?

They probably aren’t going to react well if you ban them from hanging out with their best friend. But maybe you can open up the door for healthy conversation if you ask them to share first. Teenagers are smarter than we often give them credit for! If they are in an unhealthy relationship, let them talk through what that looks like and what they could do to either get rid of the friendship or set up healthier boundaries.



It seems like today’s teenagers are busier than ever. Not only are they expected to go to school during the week and church on the weekends, but they also have to be involved in multiple extracurriculars, join school clubs and complete crazy amounts of service hours.

That is what colleges expect, right?

Extracurriculars are good and character building, but it is important for students to set goals not only on how to better themselves through these activities, but also how to find margin and rest in the midst of their busy schedules. Especially if you are talking to a teenager who is involved in multiple sports, activities or volunteer opportunities, encourage them to set healthy goals by asking these questions:

  • How many extracurriculars do you think you’ll have time for with school and other responsibilities?
  • How can you improve and use these experiences to help you in the future?
  • What can you do to make time for rest, friends and fun?

Have them prioritize their activities – there may be some new opportunities that arise this year, but if it passes what they can handle, it is not worth taking it on. They are teenagers, but they are still allowed to have fun! Please don’t allow your teenager to live like an adult. Help them take advantage of the freedom and fun that comes with adolescence. If they feel like they need to give up an activity to better balance their time, help them make the decision that is best for them (even if it means giving up that sport you love).


Physical, Mental, & Spiritual Health

Coming off the last conversation, it is so important for teenagers to take care of themselves! While culture is talking more about mental health, we cannot ignore it in our homes, churches or schools!

Please make sure you are having these conversations with your teen. Are they aware of signs of depression or suicide in themselves or friends? Are they motivated to improve in any of these areas? This conversation could be touchy or emotional, and is really three conversations, but don’t shy away from it! Start with these questions:

  • Do you feel like you have someone you can talk to about health? Especially mental and spiritual health? Who is that person?
  • What would you do if a friend came to you with a health concern?
  • What could you do this school year to improve in each of these areas? How could we help you accomplish your goals?

Be willing to ask your teen about the current state of their physical, mental, and spiritual health. Do they want to change anything? How can you help? Can you get them a gym membership or cook healthier meals? Could you help them seek the guidance of a counselor? Does one of their friends need a trusted adult to talk to? Can you start a family Bible Study? Consider what they need for themselves and from you.



Teenagers are trying to find identity and values at this phase of life. As the adults in their lives, it is our job to guide and teach while also giving them a safe space to try and sometimes fail. Teens won’t be perfect – I wasn’t at that age and definitely still make plenty of mistakes! However, we can help them set some boundaries in place to protect and direct as they gain the confidence and understand they need to truly succeed.

Maybe boundaries look like a curfew, or a time restraint on social media or Netflix. Maybe they want to limit how often they hang out with a certain friend or which event they want to avoid. Let them start the conversation and try not to jump in at the beginning with what you think is best. Here are a few questions to get this final conversation started:

  • What personal boundaries would help you succeed this school year?
  • How likely are you to say, “No!” when someone crosses your boundaries?
  • How do you think the boundaries we have set could be helpful? Are their any boundaries you have concerns about?

The beginning of school is a great time to talk about boundaries and expectations for the school year. Some rules will change over the years, and some will stay consistent. Some teenagers will even have intelligent boundaries that they want to set for themselves – give them that opportunity!



You have the power and the opportunity to help teenagers see their future and set goals to reach it. Ask good questions, listen with empathy and work together to set realistic goals that will allow them to not only enjoy but also take advantage of their teenage years. These are great conversations to have at the beginning of school, but we also encourage you to revisit these topics – ask how they are doing with their goals and if anything has changed. This is just a starting place!!

Are you willing to have these conversations? Share what goals the teenagers you talk to set! How will you help hold them accountable?

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Marketing & Development Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
Going Beyond “Good Job”: How to Praise Teens

Going Beyond “Good Job”: How to Praise Teens

Have you ever experienced a scenario like this:

You’re talking to a teen and they tell you about a situation where they had to make a choice. A friend was pressuring them to do something wrong, something they have always done. In the past, this teen would have chosen to go along with their friend, to give in to the pressure to do something they know is wrong. This time though, they chose to do the right thing. They tell you that they ignored their friend all weekend and chose to stay home. The teen chose to not participate in the wrong-doing.

You say something like, “That was a great choice!” The teen looks at you, shrugs off your comment and moves on.

This teen just revealed a life changing moment for them and they get a “great job”. We think we just praised them for doing the right thing when in reality, a moment was missed to truly dig deep and offer meaningful praise to a teen who is struggling. The teen doesn’t feel heard or like they made the right choice. They feel like a child that got a pat on the back.

This scene is played out often, and I have come to learn that these are moments where a lot of us fail. It is sometimes too easy to give a standard response, to simply say “great job” with a pat on the back.  While this may feel good to say, it doesn’t necessarily hold any weight when it comes to developing a trusting relationship. These placating statements we are guilty of using in everyday life are what causes the eye-rolls, the shrug offs, and can shut down further communication because they are meaningless.

True praise for teens, especially those who are in tough situations, requires more heart. The word ‘praise’ actually comes from Middle English meaning “attach value to”. If praise is meant to attach value to, then we need to work on our approach to praising. We need to dig deeper into using meaningful praise in order to ensure that our teens know they have value. This means using words to ensure that teens feel heard, that they know they did the right thing, and the qualities they possess to continue doing the right thing.

In the scenario above, I have experienced the difference that occurs when I have used this deeper approach to praise. I point out how they made a tough decision to move beyond what they have always done. I make my case by detailing the qualities they exhibited such as being responsible, setting an example, and made a brave choice. The responses from teens when they are given this praise is more positive. They might not have anything to say, they may even respond shyly if they have never experienced someone going beyond “good job” in their lives but you will see the change. There is a light that shines when someone feels valued.

For teens that rarely or never experience positive interactions with adults, changing our tune on praise helps them see that they have worth. Attaching value to their actions changes the tone of conversations and encourages teens to continue to make positive choices. They learn that they have value that is seen by someone in their lives who wants better for them. I challenge each of you to move beyond “good job” and search for ways to attach value to the teens in your life.

Shelbie Fowler is currently a volunteer for Teen Life and has her Masters in Family Studies. She is passionate about being an advocate for family life education in order to grow families stronger.
Raising Baby Grown-Ups

Raising Baby Grown-Ups

As the mom of a baby, some days the teenage years (and stages without diapers) seem forever away. Other times I look at the high school boys that my husband coaches, and I see my baby grow into a full man in a matter of seconds. I can’t begin to imagine how fast these years are going to fly by, but I honestly can’t wait! I do not wish this phase to pass, but I also do not dread the teenage years like many parents – they are full of opportunity. If you are dreading the teenage years or are ankle deep in raising baby grown-ups, I hope you’ll indulge my new-mom-optimism and let me restore some hope.

I recently just finished Jen Hatmaker’s newest book Of Mess and Moxie. There are so many nuggets that could be pulled from this book, but I especially loved a chapter near the end called “String Eighteen Parties Together.” Jen is all about her teenagers and brings a perspective that is rare in this culture where teenagers are considered difficult, lazy, full of drama, and a parent’s worst nightmare.

As someone who works with teenagers and will someday raise teenagers, I probably highlighted half of this chapter, and it was full of wisdom in these areas:

Choosing to like teenagers – Jen simply states, “I planned on adoring the teen years, so I do.” If you are predisposed to hate the teen years, you are probably going to be miserable for a solid 5-8 years of your child’s life. But what if we chose to enjoy adolescence? Maybe you have littles like me, or maybe you are in the middle of teen years, or maybe you are looking back on the teen years with relief (or regret). Whatever your life stage, you can still choose to enjoy teenagers. In my experience, they are hilarious, honest, and full of energy. They may eat you out of house and home and fill your house with mud and stinky shoes, but there will also be moments where they send you a text that makes you laugh out loud, or make a decision that proves they’ve been listening this whole time. Choose right now, today, to enjoy the teenage years. Having the right attitude can make a huge difference in your own response.

Finding friends to walk the teen years with – Jen Hatmaker discusses the importance of having people around you who will not only encourage, but also help lighten you up and give perspective. We were all teenagers once. You probably drove your mom crazy, but it is so easy to forget that when you are staring a big teenage problem in the face. As she puts it, we need to “handle this stage with solidarity and grace, not shock and superiority.” If you are parenting without the help of friends, church, or community, then I encourage you to get some help! Life is so much better when you have people to laugh and cry with. Find people who are raising kids around the same age as you and cling to their support and similar experiences. Seek out those who have already raised teenagers and listen to their wisdom. Surround your teens with other people who don’t have teens but can be mentors, unbiased voices, and trusted confidants. It takes a village!

Remaining approachable and shock-proof – You have heard us say this before, but we have to be a safe place for teenagers! This requires us to be a place where they can ask questions and be honest without fear of our reactions. What they say is not a deal-breaker. The questions they ask cannot shake us. The things they admit do not change our feelings about them. This is so difficult but so important. If you freak out, cry, yell or react in a way that scares them, they won’t share with you again. Instead, make it known that you are there for them. Ask questions about tough topics so they know you won’t scare easily. It will probably be just as awkward for them as it is for you, but ask them about sex, parties, friends, doubts, fears and goals.

I will leave you with this last quote from her book that made me nod my head and write “Amen!” in the margins of my book:

When you have no earthly idea how to respond yet, just say: “Tell me more about that,” or “I’m listening and need a bit of time to think about this,” or “I’m glad you told me, and we will work this out together.” Keep it open, keep it mutual, stay on the same team instead of isolating your kid. Our teens need to know that we are for them and with them, not just when they are performing well but in struggle, failure, calamity. This is, after all, exactly how God loves us.


Keep up the good work, you are doing great work in the raising of teenagers. You are raising the future adults and parents of the world, and these years will pass in a flash! We are here with you, cheering you on and loving your teens. Have you found something else that has helped you raise teenagers? Share with us! 

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.