Answers from YouthZone
What do I do if my child has friends who are bad influences? This is a fear held by most parents. If your child is young, there are several steps you can take to be proactive in encouraging positive friendships. First, find prosocial activities your child is interested in and get them involved. Whether it is Boy Scouts, sports, dance or church activities, these will allow your child to meet peers with similar interests. A child who develops a passion in one of these areas will likely carry it into their teenage years allowing less time to associate with negative peers. All of these activities also provide parents an opportunity to get to know one another. Open communication between parents is the second step you will want to take. This becomes increasingly important as your child enters adolescence. If your child knows early on that it is important to you to know their friend’s parents, it will not come as a surprise when they are older. Finally, get to know your child’s friends as individuals. If possible, open your home as a safe place for your child and friends to hang out. Each of these steps is a good start in guiding your child to make responsible choices about friends. However, you might be a parent whose child or teenager has already chosen negative peers. Although this may be more difficult to address, there are steps you can take to try and minimize the negative impact.Before taking any steps, it is important for you to understand that it is part of normal adolescent development to begin identifying more closely to peers then to parents. Therefore, the first step is vital. Try to refrain from talking negatively about or insulting your teen’s friends. This will generally increase parent-child conflict and decrease the child’s willingness to look at potential negative consequences that might result from spending time with a negative peer as he or she is put in a position to defend their friend. Second, assist your child in identifying the disadvantages of maintaining a friendship with a negative peer. This must be done at a time when conflict is low and in an atmosphere of open communication. Try to be nonjudgmental as you point out possible consequences for the choices your adolescent is making. Another trusted adult might be better heard by your teenager and should be involved in this process. Finally, it is important to prepare yourself for a difficult battle. As you attempt to implement the first steps presented, encouraging prosocial activities, aligning with other parents and developing relationships with your teen’s friends, it is likely he or she will push boundaries further. Remain consistent with rules, rewards and consequences and seek support from other family members or friends. If the situation becomes more than you can handle, don’t give up. … Call YouthZone.Jill Dupras is a counselor/case manager at YouthZone.E-mail YouthZone with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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