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Guest Post: How To Handle Toxic Teen friendships

Published: April 8, 2011 | Last Updated: June 23, 2022 By | 4 Replies Continue Reading
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By Barbara R. Greenberg, PhD and Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder, PsyD

Teens are hard-pressed to know when they should phase out a friendship. As parents, we must admit that we generally want our kids to phase out anyone who hurts their feelings even slightly. Well, we need to meet somewhere in the middle.

STEP#1 is to describe what the building blocks of a good friendship are. They include:

1. reciprocity and mutuality.
2. support and understanding.
3. characterized mostly by fun and pleasure.
4. a sense of INCLUSION-a good friend does not encourage you to give up your other friends and or family.

STEP#2 includes a description of a toxic friendship. These friendships are characterized by:

1. a draining of energy. Beware of “energy vampires.”
2. a lack of reciprocity. There is no sense of give and take.
3. one person redirecting all conversations to and about themselves.
4. They deflate you. They don’t share your joys and perhaps even enjoy your failures.
5. They put you down.
6. possessiveness and jealousy.
7. competitive and dismissive behavior.
8. They gossip about you.
9. They encourage you to get involved in destructive activities.

So, parents, if you see these things happening within your teens’ friendships, we do not recommend that you coerce your teens into ending the friendships. If they do, however, ask for your input we recommend that you calmly and non-judgmentally suggest that they consider phasing out toxic teen friendships rather than dramatically ending these relationships.

Your teens need to preserve their reputations. Encourage them to behave in a gracious manner so that they are not seen as being mean. They should keep in mind that they may continue to travel in the same social circles. When phasing out toxic teen friendships, there should be no leaking of secrets and information that was learned during the friendship. You do not want your teens to give the impression that they can’t be trusted.

And by all means, teach and model gracious behavior in difficult situations. Reputations need to be well-protected!


Barbara R. Greenberg, PhD has a doctorate in clinical psychology from SUNY at Stony Brook. She maintains a full-time private practice in Connecticut where she serves as the Adolescent Consultant for Silver Hill Hospital.

Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder, PsyD, has a doctorate in school/clinical child psychology from Pace University. She is the Director of an inpatient adolescent unit at Four Winds Hospital in New York. She is an adjunct professor at Pace University and maintains a private practice in New York.



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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS, Teen friendships

Comments (4)

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  1. You know you have a friend for life when they answer the phone at one in the morning because you can’t sleep and have a lot on your mind, and they don’t mind talking about nothing to get your mind off everything.
    They spare some time to spend with you.
    When you know that if something bad happened to you they’d be there for you, no questions asked.
    When you can look at them when some thing is wrong and they know it just by the look in their eyes and all they have to do is offer a hug and you feel a thousand times better.
    When you know that they’d never lie to you, and would never hurt you and if they did it would only be for your betterment.
    They can make you laugh when skies are the darkest, and they’re there with a good movie and some popcorn when you’re totally depressed.
    And even if you’re a thousand miles apart, it doesn’t matter because what you share with this friend is so much deeper then what lies on top that distance plays no role in your friendship.
    Friendship is when they push when you need it, but never too hard; and stand back when the time is right but never to far.
    And the true test of friendship is if you’re willing to do it all back in a heartbeat.
    When you’re life is so much better because you know them, and they bring out the best that lies within.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am you; you are me. You are the waves; I am the ocean. Know this and be free, be divine. I do my thing and you do yours. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, then it is beautiful. If not, it can’t be helped.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I want advice ,I was with this friend for a period of a year and we were so close like super close,and then we started chilling with this guy and he started liking her nad now they are dating and the guy is super nice ,but he would want to chill with me and my friends but she wouldn’t like that and she would get all mad and moody,and she started giving me attitude ,the guy then started to threaten her that if she doesn’t talk to me,they would breakup ,i tried talking to her but I feel she doesnt like me ,I dont know what to do ,should i cut her off and lose my freindship with her and the guy ,which is a very good friend ,or keep trying ??

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