Parental Advice on Dealing with Your Teen’s Toxic Friendships
Parenting a teenager is an emotional roller coaster. It is during these years that your child will likely test you the most (physically and emotionally). In most cases, it is not something they are planning to do with the hopes of turning your hair gray, in actuality; they are just trying to figure out who they are as individuals and how they fit in with their peers. We’ve all been there before–the crazy outfits, hairstyles, mood swings, and even the crazy friends we hang out with.
For the most part, it is a natural process of growing up, but as their parents, we can’t help but want to keep them away from the dangers that might lie ahead because of the decisions they’re making.
Teens and Their Peers
When your child becomes a teen, the only stamp of approval they’re looking for is from a group of their peers. Teens want so badly to fit in with their friends and feel like an equal, that this can sometimes cause them to do things “out of character”. As parents, we may not always like the company that our teenagers keep. We sometimes worry if our teens will be persuaded to do things that could get them in trouble – and rightfully so.
However, one thing I know about parenting teens is that the very moment you assert negative energy and say, “No”, the more they’re going to do the opposite of what you advise. Therefore its best to try a few different approaches before you decided to put your foot down on who they can and cannot hang out with.
- Don’t Criticize Their Friends – The very worst thing that you can do to get your teenager to stop hanging out with toxic friends is to begin criticizing them. Remember your first boyfriend or girlfriend? When you parent said, “I don’t like them because I think you can do better.” Or “They are a bit strange and dangerous.” What was your response? Did you say, “Mom, dad, you’re right, I’m going to stop hanging with this person?” Nope. Chances are you hung out with them even more to prove to your parents that they’re wrong about your friends. Therefore, refrain from bashing in their friends or you could push them even closer.
- Set Guidelines and Expectations – When you tell your teens that you don’t like their choice of friends because they’re “toxic” or “troublemakers”, this essentially tells your teen that you don’t trust them to make the right decision. However, setting clear rules, consequences, and expectations for your teen can keep them on the straight and narrow. Maybe your teen is not allowed to go out with this group of friends without an adult around, or they’re only allowed to hang out in public places. Give them guidelines on what time they must be home and how often they must contact you while out. This allows them to develop a sense of responsibility without them feeling like they have to isolate themselves from their peers.
- Help Them Develop Self-Confidence – Sometimes kids hang out with the wrong crowd because they view their behavior as cool (essentially they see how other students view this group of kids and they want to be like them). Other times teens hang out with the wrong crowd to prevent being bullied. By helping them to realize the significance in being themselves, they will eventually see no need to “fit in”. Of course nothing that you say will register, but there is more than one way to skin a cat. Enroll your teen in afterschool activities that appeal to their talents, this allows them to be around like-minded students while also building their confidence.
For example, if they’re into music, allowing them to join the school band, choir, or even take music lessons is a great way to broaden their horizons and allow them to be around teens that are interested in the same things.
- Communicate Effectively – While communication between you and your teen may dwindle into nothing more than a few single word text messages, it is important to try and keep some line of communication open with them. Talk to them about the dangers of risky behaviors such as experimenting with drugs and alcohol, stealing, joyriding without a license, and even shoplifting. A lot of times, teens try risky things because they’re not aware of the consequences that may result from it. It looks cool to them, everyone else is doing it, so they try it. However, by making them aware of the dangers, they may think twice.
- Pay Attention to the Signs – At the end of the day, all you can do is trust your teen to do the right thing when it comes to hanging out with their friends (whether you like them or not). However, as a parent you can stay informed on the various signs of trouble. Knowing what the signs of abnormal teen behavior, and even knowing how to communicate with your teen is the best way to approach the matter. Tucson Transitional Living, a young adult rehab facility, offers advice for parents on how to approach a teen who may be lying about the use of drugs and/or alcohol. Informational resources like this can help you to recognize the signs and get your teen help before it turns into addiction.
The world of a teenager is one they claim parents just don’t understand. In some ways, they’re right. The world we grew up in as teens has certainly changed from the world they’re presently growing up in. As parents we have to give our teens a little space to grow and mature into their independent selves. However, we are also supposed to provide them with the proper guidance along the way. If you’re concerned about the group of peers your teen is hanging around lately, hopefully the above advice will help you both to put things into perspective.