Some relationships that you were initially dubious about might prove fine on closer inspection. However, there may be times when your teen’s weaknesses make it unwise for him to spend time with another teen who struggles in similar areas. For example, a teen with a propensity toward anger or rebellion will only be fueled by spending time with like-minded people. It’s not that you want to ostracize the other person, but you need to look out for your teen first. Depending on circumstances, perhaps you could allow careful interaction in a whole-family context where negative propensities are less likely to be given vent.

While still on this point, we need to realize something else that’s very important to remember. Most often, we choose friends based on who we enjoy being around. In other words, our friendships are a window into our hearts—a reflection of our own character and maturity. If your teen desires to hang out with other teens who have problems with rebellion—or other serious character issues—it would be a good time to seriously evaluate why your teen wants to spend time around them. A likely answer is that you’re seeing a reflection of your own teen’s heart in his choice of friends. That would be the time to put tight parameters on the friendship or put a stop to it altogether.

So is there ever a time when your teen should be friends with someone who has notable shortcomings or character flaws? Perhaps, but it should be a different type of relationship than the typical “I enjoy being with this person, so I want them to be my friend” style of friendship. Think more along the lines of a mentoring relationship. In this case, your teens aren’t choosing the relationship based on their desire to have fun or because they find their relational needs met by being with the other person. Instead, it’s because they desire to have a positive impact. The two keys, however, are 1) your teen is truly strong enough to avoid being pulled down by the relationship (and this is something to evaluate objectively, putting aside parental bias), and 2) your teen is motivated by a genuine desire to serve and help, not a desire to spend time with the other person because they’ve found a kindred spirit.

Because cliques can form as easily in homeschool circles as they do in other settings, encourage your teen to keep an eye out for others in need of a friend, especially newcomers. Those who are gregarious and the life of the party can be reminded to include teens who may be shy or in need of an invitation to join in group activities.

It is wise that the friends closest to your child be known by you and welcomed into your home. Interacting with these friends will open doors for conversation resulting in the joy (and responsibility) of being an integral part of your teen’s social life. (Remember Mrs. Cleaver? She knew Beaver’s friends, and interacted with them while keeping on top of their shenanigans!) Practice in developing friendships will give your teens a skill that they will use throughout their lives.

“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” is not only the title of a hymn—it’s a truism that your teen should never forget! A life-changing relationship with the Lord Jesus is of utmost importance so that when friends come and go, your teens will have the constancy of the One who loves them most. The Lord models kindness, compassion, gentleness, self-control, faithfulness, and more to your teens—all attributes to exhibit and nurture with their friends.

Hitting a Friend Famine

Ultimately, it’s the Lord who knits hearts together and forms positive friendships. If your teen is experiencing a dearth of friends and you’ve run out of alternatives, please don’t despair. Pray and ask the Lord to send someone special—He delights in doing what we cannot. Encourage your teen to be patient and to trust the Lord, and then watch expectantly to see what the Lord will do. During the waiting period, assist your teen to develop godly character that will attract and maintain the right kind of friends.