NEXT TO YOUR EARLIEST childhood friend, the friends you hung out with when you were a teen probably had the greatest influence on your life.
As you moved into your teen years, you likely began to spend less time with your family and more with your peers. You started to separate yourself emotionally from your parents and attach to young people your own age. This changing emotional focus during the teen years is normal and desirable.
From a personal and social development perspective, establishing and maintaining friendships is an incredibly important part of growing into adulthood. Yet friendships developed in our teen years are different than those developed in childhood — it’s a whole new game. And that game is called “peer pressure.” Of course, peer pressure exists throughout our lives to some extent, but never are we more susceptible to it than as teens.
On the positive side, teenage friendships provide ways to experiment with different ideas and values, as well as experience and get feedback on early romantic and sexual relationships. A teen who has healthy, positive friendships will benefit into adulthood. These friendships provide a sense of belonging, of being valued, and can build social confidence.
Conversely, teens who develop destructive relationships may also have difficulty creating positive relationships as adults. And those experimental behaviors can take a wrong turn, leading us into physical, emotional, or legal trouble.
Now, perhaps years later, it can be enlightening to look back at those friendships and examine why you chose the friends you did, and how those friendships continue to affect and influence your life. Explore these relationships by choosing at least two of the following journaling prompts.
- Looking back, would you describe yourself as an extroverted or introverted teenager? How did this social orientation affect the friends you chose and how you interacted with them?
- Did you have difficulty making new friends or was it was it easy for you? To what do you attribute this ease or difficulty?
- Write about your best friend during high school. What was it about him or her that drew you to each other, and what was the nature of your relationship? Which of you influenced the other the most?
- Were you drawn to “good” kids or “bad” kids as a teen (however you choose to define those terms)? Why do you think this was the case? And what was the impact of your choices?
- How did your teenage friends influence your decisions?
- If you were to describe you and your teen friends as animals, what kind of animals would you be? Where did you fit into the ecosystem of your community?
- How did the decisions you made as a result of your friends’ influences affect your adult life?
- What friendships do you still have that were established when you were a teenager? What is the nature of those relationships now? How do you continue to benefit one another?
- How has your approach to friendship changed since you were a teenager?
- Make a list of the positive effects your friends had on you. Now make a list of the negative effects. Which list is longer? How did these positive and negative effects change your life?
- If you could go back in time and choose different friends, would you? Why or why not?
Bonus journaling challenge: Take your journaling deeper by choosing one word or phrase from your previous responses and freewriting about that topic for ten minutes.
Which journaling prompts did you choose, and why?