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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The Importance of Asking…Twice.

The Importance of Asking…Twice.

This post was written by one of our facilitators, Sarah Brooks. Sarah is a blogger, mom of 3 boys and social media expert! She has spoken across the country at various groups, churches, and schools about social media (the good, the bad, and the confusing), most of which stemmed from a post she wrote called Parents: A Word About Instagram. Sarah currently facilitates a High School Support Group in Fort Worth ISD.


I had a mild panic attack the morning I was set to lead my first Teen Life group. When I started looking over lesson one, I was shocked by how personal the discussion questions were. There was no building rapport, no easing in to sensitive topics with these people. No – right out of the gate, they expect me to walk into a group of teenagers I’ve never seen before, teenagers who are presumably hurting and/or experiencing significant life crisis, and ask questions like,

“On a scale from 1-10, how do you feel about yourself?”


“How much do you feel others care about you?”

For real??

I’m a wealthy suburban housewife facilitating a group in one of the lowest performing, lowest income high schools in our area. I knew these teens would be skeptical of me before I even said a word, but after reading lesson one I was afraid they’d actually be mad at such a blatant invasion of privacy.

None of it made sense….except that it worked. All the questions. None unanswered.

How? How is that possible?

I think the answer is in something I heard from a different group of teenagers a few weeks ago.


During a small group discussion at a church student conference last month, a group of high schoolers and I were talking about the topic of friendship. What it looks like, the difference between online connection and in-person community, etc.

I asked them what traits they looked for in a friend.

“Authenticity.” one said. “No judgment.” said another.

Then one girl said, “I want a friend who will ask me how I’m doing….twice. Once for the fake answer, then again for the real answer. I want a friend who will wait and press for the real answer.”

(*pause to slow clap for that answer*)

I knew exactlywhat she was talking about, because over the past several months I’ve been conducting a social experiment I find hysterical that my husband is ever-so-slightly embarrassed by.

It goes like this: we’re eating a restaurant and the waiter comes up and asks one of a few standard questions, either “How are you tonight?” or “How was your food?”

Something along those lines.

My husband answers “Great!” at the same time I answer a loud “MEHHHH” with a noncommittal shrug. Sometimes if I’m feeling extra obnoxious, I say, “Not great!”

I’ve done this countless times in countless restaurants with countless waitstaff and not a single personhas a) heard me or b) asked a follow up question.

Nobody hears me because nobody is actually listening.

I mean, it’s dinner at a restaurant. Who cares, right? I don’t need to be best friends with Olive Garden James.

But I’m beginning to realize we do this a lot in regular life, too.

We ask all the right questions – because we’re interested and polite, of course – but we don’t actually listen for the answers.

How many times have you had an entire conversation with someone in which you didn’t hear a word they said?

You say, “Hey! How are you?” and as soon as the person starts answering your mind bounces to your work inbox and how you need to pick up the dry cleaning before they close and how your kid has that weird science project with the apples and – oh! he’s finished talking I should ask another question…

We live in a culture with really long to do lists and really cheap communication. We get so busy we forget to actually stop and listen.


And this exactly why my Teen Life groups work. This is why those first students didn’t storm out on day one.

The curriculum we use provides practical, helpful tools for teenagers about how to live life better. It’s incredible.

But more than that, these students know that in a world stuffed so full of “connections” we’ve somehow disconnected ourselves from real conversation, they have a place once a week where they can come and be heard.

Even better, they’re heard by an adult who isn’t paid to talk to them, who didn’t give birth to them, and who apparently has no better hobby than to drive across town every Thursday to listen to what they have to say, simply because she – and the rest of the Teen Life team – believes in them.

We stop and we listen. (Curiously. We listen curiously.)

In today’s society, with today’s teens, that can make all the difference in the world.

Who Are Your People?

Who Are Your People?

A couple of weeks ago, we had a huge problem. My son, Sawyer, was refusing to go to sleep at night. Overnight, he went from going to bed in minutes to standing up in his crib, screaming unless he was being held. Until this time, we have been spoiled by his sleeping habits, so when they suddenly changed, I was desperate.

After a couple of nights of rocking him every 15 minutes and then eventually crawling in his crib until he fell asleep, I asked for help. I asked good friends, my mom, and even put it out on Instagram to get the advice and wisdom from my fellow mom friends. This is not something I often do, but after all the great wisdom I got, I wondered, “Why don’t I usually ask for advice or help?”

We encourage teenagers to seek wise counsel, find adults they can trust, and surround themselves with peers who will make them better. Why do we do this? Because we know that they are going to face tough circumstances, and we don’t want them to be alone.

But how often do we follow this advice ourselves? Other than your spouse or very best friend, how often do you share trials, struggles and doubts with the people in your circle?

Lately, there has been a call for people to be more authentic on social media. It is easy for me to post pictures on vacation or of Sawyer when he is smiling, clean, and happy. It is difficult to post images of a dirty house, a home cooked meal that ended up being just okay, or cranky baby. Whether on social media or in real life, it is often difficult for us to admit that we don’t have it all together. We don’t have all the answers. Our lives aren’t always perfect, posed, and picture worthy.

We are wrong.

You need people to talk to and do life with, just like your teenager.

Now, I understand the older we get, the trickier it is to share information about our spouse, kids, or job. Please understand that I am not asking you to break trust or find a group of friends to gossip with. I am simply encouraging you to find a community that you trust and that will give advice to better yourself and your family.

Sometimes this will mean having a friend to call after a long day of work to remind you why you love your job. Other times it might be someone ahead of you in life who will give advice and counsel because they have been through it already. It also may mean having that person who will call you out when you are wrong – who will tell you stay with your spouse when it’s hard or apologize to your kids when you overreacted.

Your people will look different from my people, but here are a few qualities to look for:

  • Find someone who you admire. Maybe you love the way they parent, or they have a way of finding joy in every situation. Talk to the people you want to be like, they will make you better.
  • Find someone older than you. Peers are great, but talk to others who aren’t in “the weeds” anymore. Talk to someone who has been through something similar but made it to the other side.
  • Find someone who is encouraging. When life is hard, sometimes you just need someone to cheer you on! Find the people who will show up at the big and small events. Who will celebrate every victory with you.
  • Find someone who is honest. This one is hard. I like people who agree with me. But I need people who will love me enough to tell me when I am wrong or when I should be doing something different. Find someone you trust who you know will always be honest with you.
  • Find someone who loves your family. My favorite people to talk to are the ones who know where I am coming from. The people who gave me good advice on Instagram did so because they love my son and want what is best for him. Seek people who love your marriage and your kids, not just you.


Who are these people in your life? Do you see the value in seeking community as adults? Let us know what you think!

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.