For many teenagers, friendships are becoming their most important relationships. They're pulling away from mom and dad and starting that journey to independence and adulthood. You want your teen to have good friends and good relationships and you can help to enable that by creating opportunities for her to get to know her peers better. If you're hosting a birthday party, neighborhood party or any other teen event, you want to entertain and make your event fun for the teens. Incorporate a few activities that can help them get to know each other and build friendships.
Tied in Knots
If you have a group of five or more, have everyone stand in a circle, reach in the middle, and grab the hands of different people who are not standing beside them. Then, have them untangle themselves back into a circle without letting go, crawling over and under each other to do it. They have to communicate and work together to get it done -- and it gets lots of laughs. You can let them interact organically or have them each tell something about themselves before they move, such as "I'm (teen's name) and I love to travel" or "I'm scared of spiders." You can even blindfold some of the group so they have to rely on each other for directions.
Especially for a group that doesn't really know each other, interviews can help break the ice and get the kids talking. If it's a good sized group, give everyone a piece of paper with the numbers 1-12 in the shape of a clock. For each number, the teens meet a person in the group and visit with them for one minute for a brief conversation about themselves. Have them write the name and a few details about the person on their paper. After 60 seconds, call switch until they've done it 12 times and met different people each time. If it's a smaller group, you can set it up like a news panel with an "interviewer" and two or three people as the panel. The interviewer can ask questions about anything, such as "What is the best pet and why" or "What will you study in college" and each panel member can answer. Switch out people so everyone gets a turn and learns more about each other.
Make an old childhood game modern and fun for your teen and her group. Make a list of situations to be photographed and put the teens into groups. Give them the list and a digital camera and send them out to complete as many as they can in a given amount of time. If you have time and drivers, send them around town for things like "take a photo of a duck" or "get a photo of one of the group pumping gas for someone." If you need to keep it close to home, make the list things they can make themselves or find nearby. Get everyone together at the end, hook the cameras up to the computer, and let them talk and laugh about the photos and fun things that happened on the hunt. You can leave out the cameras and have them make or find things to share with the group, instead. Don't forget snacks!
Pass the Gift
A trendy twist on the children's party game, this version will help to get your teens to open up. Wrap a small gift, like a box of chocolates. Then wrap it with many more layers, adding a smaller item in each layer, like a sucker or piece of chocolate, and a question or challenge. Have everyone sit in a circle and pass the parcel, each person taking a turn removing one layer, keeping the goody, and doing the challenge or question. You can make the challenges things like "sing the group a song" or "share your most embarrassing moment." The group gets to snack and learn more about each other. You can make the main gift a box of bulk candy bars so everyone gets one, or put a movie there to segue to the next activity. You can make multiple gifts and do smaller groups to make it go faster. Be as creative in the questions and challenges as you want to get the teens talking.