RULE OF PARENTING #16: Good Pals, Bad Pals: 5 Ways to Deal with Your Child’s Friends

Your Child’s Friends

Rules Of Parenting - # - Kids Friends On The FloorParents are often apprehensive about being involved in their children’s social life. The truth is that loving parents must take an active interest in their child’s social life including learning more about their friends. Being involved does not mean meddling— it only means keeping track of what your child is up to. Here are ways to effectively deal with the friends your child chooses to hang out with:

1. Stop Freaking Out

It gets to a point where kids, especially pre-teens and teens, start to identify with different groups and start making different friends. It is part of the developmental process. As long as your child is not doing anything harmful or his friends are not influencing him negatively, there is no need to constantly pester him about his choice of friends; just allow him to hang out with his pals. Even the toddlers will make friends— just because your 2 year old Christian son has made friends with a 3 year old Jewish neighbour doesn’t mean there is any reason to freak out. Just flow along.

2. Make Your House the Hangout of Choice

One of the best ways to understand your child’s friends is to try an open door policy where her friends can come over and hang out together often. This way, you can easily determine the good friends and the bad-news pals. You can find out where your daughter is picking certain behaviours. Making your home a place for your child and her friends to hangout also offers you the safety of knowing where your child is—safe in your house. In many ways, bringing her friends home just creates an air of honesty, openness and trust that is crucial between parents and growing children.

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3. Intervene When Necessary

Four-year-old Tamara had a playmate Sandra, 4, who was a little drama queen. Sandra always wanted to have her way with the toys and games; sometimes Sandra would completely refuse to play with Tamara who only had Sandra as her friend. Tamara’s mom noticed the pain that her baby was facing in the hands of Sandra and gradually, she began introducing her daughter to other playmates whom she could have fun with. Eventually, Tamara and Sandra stopped seeing each other. Sometimes, as a parent, you need to intervene when the situation between your child and her friends is clearly detrimental. If your child is unhappy being friends with another kid, it may be a good idea to introduce him to better alternatives.

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4. Express Your Concerns Clearly

For the older kids, especially the teenagers, it may not be possible to intervene or find friends for them. If you are worried that your teenager is hanging out with the wrong pals, it is best to express your concerns in a non-judgemental way. Be specific about behaviour that you do not like in your child’s friend and explain why you do not like the behavior. For example instead of saying “I do not want to see you with that crazy bastard Marco,” you could say, “I saw Marco drinking alcohol. I do not want you to hang out with him because I do not want you to consume alcohol. Alcohol can be harmful to your health and safety.” When you are less critical about his friends, your child is less likely to be defensive and he may even open up about what he is up to.

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5. Build a Firm Relationship

Studies indicate that children with a solid family background and a stable relationship with their parents are less likely to succumb to negative peer pressure. From when your child is young, invest time in building a strong bond that encourages responsibility, love, empathy, honesty and trust. The stronger the relationship you have with your child, the more likely he will make sane judgement when it comes to his choice of friends. He is also less likely to other places, such as negative friends, for emotional satisfaction.

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