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Frenemies and Toxic Teen Friendships: A Silent Threat to Mental Health and Wellbeing

Frenemies refer to individuals who portray themselves as friends but secretly hold animosity or engage in competitive behaviours towards each other. These relationships are characterised by a mix of camaraderie and rivalry, where individuals may act as friends in some situations but also engage in subtle or overt acts of competition or betrayal.

Frenemies refer to individuals who portray themselves as friends but secretly hold animosity or engage in competitive behaviours towards each other.

For example, in a high school setting, two popular classmates, Sarah and Emily, are frenemies. They often hang out together, attend social events together, and even share secrets with each other. However, unbeknownst to everyone else, they constantly try to outdo one another in academics, sports achievements, and popularity. While they maintain a superficial friendship outwardly, deep down they harbour feelings of jealousy and rivalry towards each other.

Raising Resilient Teens: Promoting Healthy Friendships and Identifying Toxic Relationships

Toxic friendships among teenagers are unfortunately quite common. The pressure to fit in and the desire for acceptance can sometimes lead to unhealthy dynamics within friendships. Teenagers may find themselves in toxic friendships where there is manipulation, gossiping, or even bullying involved. These relationships can have a negative impact on their emotional wellbeing and overall development.

While it is true that toxic friendships can occur among teenagers, it is important to remember that not all friendships are characterised by jealousy and rivalry, and many teenagers form healthy and supportive relationships with their peers. These healthy friendships can provide a strong support system and contribute positively to their self-esteem and personal growth. It is crucial for teenagers to recognise the signs of toxic friendships and prioritise their mental health by surrounding themselves with friends who uplift and encourage them.

Developing resilience and emotional intelligence can empower teenagers to recognise and address toxic behaviours in their friendships. By building resilience, they can bounce back from negative experiences and setbacks, learning from them rather than being consumed by them.

Additionally, emotional intelligence (EI) enables teenagers to understand and manage their own emotions, as well as empathise with others, fostering healthier and more fulfilling relationships.

Understanding Toxic Friendships

Toxic friendships can be characterised by a lack of trust and constant power struggles, where one person may manipulate or control the other for their own benefit. These friendships often involve excessive gossiping and spreading rumours, which can lead to a toxic environment filled with negativity. Furthermore, betrayal is a common trait in toxic friendships, where one friend may betray the other's trust or constantly let them down, causing emotional harm and instability in the relationship.

Toxic friendships can have a detrimental impact on teenagers' mental health and self-esteem. Constant exposure to gossip, rumours, and negativity can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and even depression or anxiety. Teenagers may start questioning their worth and value as a person due to the constant criticism and judgement from their toxic friend. This can result in low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and a negative self-image. Additionally, the emotional harm caused by betrayal and constant letdowns can further contribute to feelings of insecurity

For example, a teenager may have a toxic friend who constantly belittles their achievements and compares them unfavourably to others. This can make the teenager doubt their abilities and feel inadequate in various aspects of their life, such as academics or extracurricular activities. Furthermore, if the toxic friend spreads rumours or engages in gossip about the teenager, it can lead to social isolation and a loss of trust among peers. These experiences can deeply impact the teenager's emotional wellbeing and make them question their worth and their ability to form healthy relationships in the future.


Recognising the Signs

Recognising the signs of toxic friendship is crucial in order to protect one's mental health. Some common signs include constant criticism, manipulation, and a lack of support or empathy from the friend. Additionally, if the teenager feels drained or emotionally exhausted after spending time with this friend, it may be a sign that the friendship is toxic. It is important for the teenager to prioritise their own wellbeing and consider distancing themselves from this negative influence.

It can be difficult for a teenager to recognise these signs, especially if they have been friends for a long time. However, it is important for them to understand that their mental health should never be compromised for the sake of friendship. Seeking support from trusted adults or counsellors can help the teenager navigate this situation and make the best decision for their wellbeing. Remember, it is okay to let go of toxic friendships and surround oneself with positive and supportive individuals. This can lead to personal growth and a healthier, happier life.

5 Red flags in toxic friendships

  1. Dramarama If a friend consistently brings negativity or drama into the teenager's life, it may be a sign of a toxic friendship. This can manifest in constant gossiping, spreading rumours, or constantly complaining about others.

  2. Resentment and Jealousy Pay attention to how the friend behaves in various situations and how they make you feel. If they consistently put you down, undermine your achievements, or make you doubt yourself, it may be a sign of toxicity. For example, if a teenager notices that their friend constantly belittles their achievements or becomes jealous of their successes, it could be a red flag of a toxic friendship. This resentment can create a toxic environment where the teenager feels unsupported and undervalued.

  3. No Boundaries Toxic friendships can also involve a lack of respect for boundaries. If the friend consistently disregards your feelings, invades your privacy, or pressures you into doing things you're uncomfortable with, it's important to recognise these red flags. Remember, surrounding yourself with positive and supportive friends is crucial for maintaining a healthy and happier life.

  4. Possessive and Controlling Toxic friends often exhibit possessiveness, trying to control your actions or relationships. If your friend constantly gets upset or tries to isolate you from other people in your life, it's important to recognise this as a red flag. This behaviour can be a sign of a toxic friendship, as it indicates a lack of respect for your autonomy. It's essential to prioritise your wellbeing and consider whether this friendship is truly beneficial for you in the long run.

  5. You Try to Impress You find yourself trying to be someone you’re not. Maybe you do this to impress them. Or perhaps it’s because you don’t want to be alone. You may find that you are constantly changing your behaviour or interests to fit in with your toxic friend's expectations. This can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and a loss of your own identity. It's important to remember that true friends accept you for who you are and encourage your personal growth. Pay attention to how they feel about these friendships. and whether they genuinely support your happiness and wellbeing. Surrounding yourself with toxic friends can hinder your personal development and prevent you from reaching your full potential. It's crucial to prioritise your own self-worth and surround yourself with people who appreciate and celebrate the real you.

One tip for objectively evaluating friendships is to assess the balance of give and take in the relationship. Healthy friendships are characterised by mutual support, where both parties contribute equally to each other's wellbeing.

Additionally, it's important to observe how these friends react to your successes and failures. Genuine friends will be genuinely happy for your achievements and provide comfort during difficult times, while toxic friends may exhibit jealousy or undermine your accomplishments. Trusting your instincts and listening to your feelings can also provide valuable insights into the health of your friendships.

The Role of Resilience and Emotional Intelligence

Resilience refers to the ability to bounce back from adversity and maintain a positive mindset despite challenges. Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, involves understanding and managing one's own emotions as well as empathising with others. Both resilience and emotional intelligence play crucial roles in dealing with toxic friendships. By cultivating resilience, individuals can better cope with the negative effects of toxic friends and develop the strength to distance themselves from harmful relationships.

Additionally, emotional intelligence enables individuals to recognise and address toxic behaviours in their friendships in order to foster healthier and more positive connections. Resilience empowers teenagers to bounce back from the negative effects of toxic friendships by fostering their ability to adapt and recover. When faced with toxic behaviours, resilient teenagers are more likely to view these experiences as opportunities for growth and learning rather than allowing them to define their self-worth. They can develop healthy coping mechanisms, such as seeking support from trusted individuals or engaging in self-care activities, which help them navigate the challenges of toxic friendships and regain their emotional wellbeing. Ultimately, resilience equips teenagers to overcome adversity and thrive in their relationships and overall life.


Ending toxic friendships

If your child is prepared to end the friendship, they need to decide how to tell the friend. They should approach the conversation with honesty and assertiveness, expressing their feelings and reasons for ending the friendship in a respectful manner. It's important for them to remember that they deserve healthy and positive relationships, and ending a toxic friendship is an act of self-care and self-respect. By prioritising their wellbeing and surrounding themselves with supportive individuals, they can create a happier and more fulfilling life.

It may also be helpful for them to anticipate and prepare for any potential reactions or pushback from their friend. They can offer support and understanding, but ultimately, they should stand firm in their decision and not allow themselves to be guilt-tripped or manipulated into maintaining the toxic friendship. Ending the friendship may be difficult in the short term, but in the long run, it will lead to personal growth and a healthier emotional state.

Getting help for toxic friendships and enemies

If your child is having ongoing friendship difficulties that are really upsetting them and aren’t changing despite your child’s best efforts, consider seeking professional advice. Teenagers sometimes find it helpful to have someone other than a parent to talk to. You could try a school counsellor or contact Prue at Better You HQ Counselling for help and support. Our child and adolescent counselling services are designed to address the unique needs of young individuals, helping them navigate through emotional challenges, build resilience, and develop healthy coping mechanisms.


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