Toxic Friends: What to Do When Your Teen Hangs Out with the Wrong Crowd
Friends play a vital role in the development of a teenager. Having a good set of friends can improve their communication skills and boost self-confidence. Some friendships may even last a lifetime.
On the other hand, hanging out with the wrong crowd can result in bad behaviors and risky decision-making. The teen's academic performance could also suffer. If they want to apply at a particular senior high school, for instance, they may not qualify if their grades are bad.
If you believe that your teenager is spending time with the wrong people, you can take steps to help guide your child through this time.
Here's what you can do:
Focus on the Behavior, Not the Person
Refrain from generalizing the friends of your teen as negative influences. Instead, pay close attention to the behavior. Highlight specific areas of concern, such as friends who do petty crimes or skip school. Explain to your teenager that they could face legal trouble if they hang around with people who commit crimes, such as theft, drug abuse and aggressive acts toward others. Also, discuss the risks associated with toxic friendships, and trust that you raised a child who responds to logic.
Get Acquainted with Your Teen's Friends
The teenage years are difficult for everyone. Your child's friends who look bad on the outside may actually be good people who are just having a tough time adjusting. Before you assume that your teen's friends are rude or abrasive people, get to know them a bit more.
Not sure how to do this? Take note of this guide:
- Choose a special event, such as the end of the academic year or the birthday of your child.
- Then, ask your teen to take a few of their friends out to dinner to celebrate.
- Take them to a restaurant or any other dining establishment and observe how your child's friends behave in public.
After the event, assess whether you've misjudged your teen's friends.
If you've met the friends of your child and think that they're a bad influence, look for an opportunity to influence your child indirectly. Find a responsible older teen or an adult that can forge a relationship with your child. This individual could a trustworthy person in your local area or a member of your extended family. Have this person keep in touch with your child and attempt to guide your teen whenever possible.
Meet the Parents
Equally important to getting to know the friends of your child is meeting the friends' parents. You could, for instance, arrange to get a cup of tea or coffee with these parents at a convenient time. If your teen and their friends are attending a concert or a special event in school, take the initiative to drop them off at the venue or pick them up after the event. If you find the friends' parents at the venue, hop out of your car and have a conversation with them.
When your child's friends are engaging in behaviors that are not in line with your values, don't hesitate to set limits on the amount of time your teen spends with those people. If your child's friends are doing something unhealthy (or worse, breaking the law), assert yourself by saying, "I'm not going to let you hang out with your friends."
You can expect your child to defy or rebel against this limit. As a parent, however, you're responsible for setting standards and expectations in the family. If your teen fails to meet them or chooses not to do so, they at least know what those expectations and standards were. Your child also knows that they will face the consequences when they cross the line.
Be a Proactive Parent
Allot time to talk to your teenager every day and ask how they're doing in school. Show your child that your doors are open and you're someone they can trust.
Apart from having regular conversations with your teen, reach out to your child's teachers for insight. Stay up to date on what's going on rather than believing in unverified rumors. If you find out that your teenager is a negative influence on other students, you'll need to take action to address this issue. If necessary, seek outside assistance to correct this problem. You have to proactively take steps to guide your child to the right path rather than fix problems as they come.
Don't fret if you're a mom, a dad or a guardian who's fighting the magnetic pull of a bad or toxic set of friends. If you tackle this problem with wisdom, you will be able to solve it.