Q. My daughter is 15 and a sophomore in high school. She is a good student, but I am worried that all of her close friends are boys. I am nervous that she is spending so much time with only boys and am concerned that she does not know how to be a good friend to girls. Is this a valid concern? Should I do or say anything?
A. Today friendships among young people are far different than only a generation ago. Many teens don't go out on dates; they travel in groups for social gatherings, events, and activities. When you grew up, same-sex friends were the only option for a girl: if you had a male friend, romance was likely involved. That's simply not the case today with many adolescents. Many girls have guy friends as well as girl friends, and vice-versa. There's a mix of relationships between the sexes and certainly there are benefits involved.
When your daughter was younger, she learned how to be friends with girls. Now she is learning how to be friends with young men before she commits to a love relationship with anyone. She's practicing how to get along with people of the opposite sex, and she's also learning about males' relationships -- how they talk, play, and interact.
Knowing how to relate to the opposite sex will only serve her well as she matures. When she's working with a group on a project for school, she'll have experience managing herself with guys. When she lands a job, she'll have knowledge as to how to communicate with her male coworkers, bosses, and subordinates.
Mary Pfeifer, in her book Reviving Ophelia, talks about how girls compete with boys academically until they reach puberty. It might be the case with your daughter that by engaging in these opposite-sex relationships, not only will she be their friend but she'll learn to appropriately keep up with them academically and intellectually.
If your daughter and her teenaged boy friends are engaged in risky or unhealthy behavior (e.g., sex, drugs, or illegal activity), then that's a different situation. Just as parents always need to keep a watchful eye on their teenager's potentially rebellious behavior, you need to notice where these relationships with her guy friends might be leading.
Invite these friends to hang out at your home, and drive them to their various activities such as games, dances, and movies. By doing so, you'll get to know them and become aware if the relationships are safe or unsafe. You're likely to fully realize and feel confident that there's nothing inherently wrong, inappropriate, or dangerous about her engaging in friendships with teenaged boys.
Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of four parenting books, including Darn Good Advice -- Baby and Darn Good Advice -- Parenting. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for this site and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.
Originally published on HealthyKids.com, March 2006.