Through school, sports and other extra curricular actives, your child will make lots of different friends throughout the year, but how do you handles it when one particular friend starts leading your child down the wrong path?
Psychologist Gail Saltz recently tackled this dilemma on the Today Show by saying that most parents will face this quandary at some point. Here are some pointers on working through it:
1. Ask yourself what you don’t like about the friend; is it their appearance, the way they talk or something else superficial? If it is, it’s probably not worth having a battle over.
Make a point to get to know the friend, make your home a place your where your child and his friends want to hang out. Give them their space and upon entering and leaving your home.
Strike up a conversation with the friend. Ask how they are, what they are interested in, etc., and after a while you’ll know if you really have anything to worry about, or you might discover that you simply have different tastes than your child.
2. You don’t ever want to be judgmental or flat out tell your child that you don’t like a certain friend or you don’t want them to spend time with that person. Instead, talk about the friend’s character traits and site specific examples you dislike. By saying what behaviors you don’t agree with or aren’t comfortable with, you are holding up your family values. Attack the things the friend is doing and never the friend.
3. Help your child explore interests where they might find more like-minded peers. Encourage after school activities that will foster this. You’re not always around, so obviously a lot of these friendships are formed on the playground at school or soccer field, away from you, and will most likely run their course.
Saltz says, “If there’s not something terrible going on, you don’t have to get overly concerned. And, yes, some of it’s going to go on not in your presence. But if you get to know the kid a bit and get to know their parents…” As they say, the apple never falls too far from the tree.
4. Keep an open dialogue. The teen years are a whole different ballgame. When children are young, we can steer them in the right direction, but with teens, there is a lot more peer pressure and fear of “fitting in.” Discuss certain scenarios before they occur, such as asking your child, “What would you do if your friend asked you try XY or Z? How would you handle XYZ?”
Make sure your child knows they can talk to you about anything and let them know the family rules and consequences of getting into a sticky situation. For example disappointing the family and having privileges taken away, etc.
Saltz says there are three tell-tale signs for how you can tell if your child may be hanging around the wrong crowd:
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Academic changes
- Withdrawal from family time
If you suspect as much or see any one of these taking place, talk to your child first, followed by parents of the friend(s) and then potentially seek school intervention.
Monitoring your child’s peer groups and whereabouts may not make you a popular parent, but it will be good for your child by providing some guidance and direction. Encourage healthy friendships and activities. Instill values by living them and keep the channels of communication open.
Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography