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How to Rekindle a Friendship After COVID: Advice for Teens

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT
Meet The Team >

June 8 is National Best Friends Day.

It’s a chance to celebrate the friends in your life and show them how much they mean to you.

If you’re like many teens, COVID-19 has impacted some – if not most – of your friendships. The frequent shelter-in-place guidelines, virtual school, and social distancing requirements of 2020 were not conducive to developing and maintaining friendships. It’s awkward to talk while wearing masks, or to stay six feet apart while having a DMC (Deep Meaningful Conversation).If your relationship with your best friend suffered over the past year, here are some ways to mend the bond. Not hugging or high-fiving your best friend for an entire year is not fun. It’s no wonder that loneliness and isolation led to staggering increases in mental health problems during the pandemic.

Your family’s personal approach towards COVID might have affected your social life, too. Some parents were strict and some weren’t strict about COVID rules. Maybe you wanted to chill with your friends – but your parents said it was too risky. Or perhaps your family thought it was ok, but your best friend’s parents weren’t on board.

In any case, it’s natural that teen friendships fizzled out during the pandemic. If your relationship with your best friend suffered over the past year, here are some ways to mend the bond.

How To Rekindle A Friendship

Calling SOS on your sunken friendship?

We’re here with a life preserver, ready to rescue you two.

Here are some ways you can give your relationship some extra TLC:

1. Reach Out.

This sounds obvious, but we’ll say it anyway. If you and your best friend haven’t talked in a long time, give them a call. Get on Zoom or Facetime together. Ask your friend if you can get together in person, if both your parents allow it. Catch up on the past few months. Catch up on the past year! Pro tip: schedule ample time for the call. It doesn’t make sense to call someone to reconnect and then say you have to get off the phone after five minutes.

2. Remind Them of The Before Times.

Send your friend a picture of the two of you before COVID-19. Or talk about an experience you had that was memorable, funny, or just plain nutty. Reminding your BFF of the way things were pre-pandemic might spark some nostalgia and help you rekindle the relationship. The goal is to make your friend smile and reminisce about how much fun you used to have together.

3. Walk a Mile.

Once you reconnect and hear what your BFF has been up to during COVID, make sure to empathize. That means putting yourself in their shoes for a while. Talk about what they want to talk about. Listen carefully to whatever they want to talk about. If a family member got sick with COVID, or if they lost a friend or family member to COVID, express your condolences and don’t move on to another topic until you’re sure they’re done talking. If they had to cancel a Sweet 16 birthday party, Bar Mitzvah, Quinceañera, or another major event, acknowledge the loss and help them work through it, if that’s what they need.

4. Spend Time in a Group.

If your friendship has been on hold, it might be initially awkward just to hang out one-on-one. Consider spending time with your friend as part of a larger group, even if it’s just one or two other friends. In a group setting, there’s less of a chance for awkward silences and forced conversation. Other friends will make the hangout more chill. This makes it easier to relax and be authentic.

5. Invite Them to an Activity.

As venues start opening up and social-distancing regulations relax, you can invite your friend to spend time doing something you both enjoy. Who’s their favorite singer? What’s their favorite team? Favorite restaurant? Choose an activity you know they’d like, such as a concert, sporting event, or delicious meal. Or choose an experience based on a common interest. If you two had a unique ritual – such as going hiking every Sunday, or grabbing a drink at a local coffee shop before school – see if you can resume the ritual. If you’re nervous about it being a bit awkward, invite friends to join you.

6. Clear the Air.

Communication is key when it comes to rebuilding a friendship. If there’s an elephant in the room, talk about it. Be as honest as possible, even if you’re embarrassed. When talking, use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. For example: “I felt ignored when my phone calls and texts went unanswered for days on end. I didn’t know what was going on.” One honest conversation can save a dozen conflicts down the road.

7. Apologize.

If there’s a thick wall of ice between you and your friend, try and think about whether there’s anything you did that could have contributed to building it. If you think you hurt your friend in any way, apologize. Be specific and be genuine. Don’t qualify your apology with an “if.” Saying “I’m sorry if you felt hurt” is not really an apology. Also, don’t follow an apology with the word “but.” Saying “I’m sorry, but…” undermines the apology. Your job is to apologize and then wait for them to talk.

8. Don’t Hold Grudges.

Maybe you and your BFF grew apart after something they did. If that’s the case try to forgive and forget. Be like Elsa in Frozen: “Let it go…the past is in the past.” Holding a grudge will make it hard to rekindle the friendship. It also makes it more likely they’ll avoid you. If they did something that really hurt you and you’re still angry about it, an honest conversation might be in order. See #5- Clear the Air.

9. Give Them the Benefit of the Doubt.

If your BFF doesn’t return your calls or texts, give them the benefit of the doubt. They could be dealing with issues of their own. Perhaps they have family issues. Maybe someone in their family is sick. Maybe they’re dealing with a mental health, substance abuse, or emotional issue that has nothing to do with you. When people don’t get back to you, it’s not always personal. Send them a text that acknowledges you’re here for them if they ever want to talk, and then give them space. When they’re ready, they’ll reach out.

10. Know When It’s Time to Part Ways.

If you’ve tried everything, and months have gone by and they haven’t responded to you,  it might be time to stop trying. If you feel like you put in real effort with no reciprocity, they may not want to reconnect. And – though you’re lonely because you miss your best friend – holding on when you need to let go does not feel good at all. And it isn’t good for your mental health, either. If the end of the friendship hits you hard, please our article on how to get over a friendship break up – the information in that article can help.

Accept and Move On – If That’s What’s Needed

While absence usually makes the heart go fonder, there’s also another truism to consider: out of sight, out of mind. It’s natural for friends to grow apart under the best of circumstances. And during a global pandemic, when you haven’t been able to hang out in person at all, growing apart is not surprising. Trying the tips above might help you rekindle your relationship, but you have to accept the fact that there may be nothing you can do about it. It may be sad, but it’s also true.

New Friends Are Waiting

Keep this in mind: friendships don’t always last forever. Believe it or not, best friends come and go throughout the different stages of your life. The best thing you can do is reconnect with friends who want to reconnect. And if this cycle of friendship reached its natural endpoint during the pandemic, now is the perfect time to meet other teens and expand your circle of friends.

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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