Changing friends from middle to high school — Good Parenting

Sad teen boyDear Dr. Debbie,

Our son’s recent complaint is, “Why are all my friends changing?” Which isn’t an odd question considering they’re transitioning from middle school to high school. Just like him, they may be adding or dropping a sport over the summer and/or finding or losing a girlfriend. It seems that when he feels like being with one buddy, he is not available or that when a friend is asking him to do something, he really doesn’t want to do that activity anymore. Any suggestions for smoothing out this rough patch?

Mom and Dad

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Dear Mom and Dad,

Indeed this is an age of adjustments. Friendships are formed and maintained over common interests and shared time. But as your son has experienced, he and his friends are shifting their interests as well as how each spends his time. Friendships that were once as easy as being at the same bus stop before school and on the same basketball team after school now have to be intentionally supported.

“Wanna catch a movie?”
“I have a guitar lesson in an hour.”
“Shoot hoops in my driveway after dinner tomorrow?”
“I’ll be worn out from mowing the neighbors’ lawns.”
“How about going fishing at the creek the day after that?”
“Not really my thing.”

If they can’t find a common activity to pursue, and synchronize a time to do it, former best buddies soon drift apart.

One way for your son to pass this interim as he and his peers sort themselves out, is to identify a family activity to carry him through. This should be something that he and one or both parents can enjoy at least weekly.

Take advantage of his lull in peer activity to strengthen your parenting attachment. There may be more rough patches ahead as you pass through the turbulent teen years. Tough times are better withstood on a firm family foundation.

As your son settles into a new routine for high school, old friendships may resume and new ones will emerge — at the bus stop, in class, and in after school activities. Expect at least a brief period of feeling lost as he navigates his way through the old and new faces around him. Some may have sprouted wispy mustaches over the summer, or may have shaved and dyed their hair. Some may have shot up an inch or two in height. Your son will also be adjusting to a whole new assortment of teachers and other adults once school begins again and will have to figure out how to work best with each one.

This is a good time to re-discover that Mom and Dad can be good company.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She has a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children's Museum. Long-time fans and new readers can find many of her "Understanding Children" columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at

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