Teenagers gravitate towards friends that are similar to them. They have an intense need to be accepted and will look for that acceptance from their peer group. You cannot pick out your child’s friends, but you can steer them toward the right crowd.
The first thing you need to do is discover who your child’s friends are. It may seem that your child does not want to share details about their life. However, if you take the time to talk to your child, they may open up. You may discover your child has great friends, friends that are bad influences or few friends at all. Once you know your child’s social situation there are a few ways you can go about influencing it.
You should try to avoid criticizing your child’s friends. Your child will want to defend them and it may make them want to rebel against you by hanging out with friends they know you don’t like. Instead, try to have adult conversations about their friends to encourage your child to make wise decisions. Ask questions like, “why do you enjoy hanging out with them?” and, “if your friends are getting into trouble, do you think you will get into trouble too?” Help your teenager see the logical consequences of spending time with troublesome friends.
You should also set strong boundaries and rules. Empowering Parents reminds parents that going out on a Friday or Saturday night is not a right, but a privilege. Your child should earn your trust and respect in order to go out and spend time with friends. If you catch your child breaking specific boundaries that you set, you can take away the right to go out.
Confident teenagers need less approval from their peers. They will be more likely to join groups of friends that share common interests, rather than groups that will make them feel accepted. You can help your teenager feel confident by applauding their individual skills and providing opportunities to explore their interests. When you encourage your child to invest in interests such as music, science or sports they are more likely to be involved in activities that offer opportunities to meet friends that have similar interests. These friends are much more likely to be engaged in positive activities. There will also be less time to participate in destructive behavior when they are participating in clubs or team sports.
Create Space for Friendship
Make space for your child to spend time with positive friends. Offer to have friends over to your home. Volunteer to drive your child’s friend group to fun activities. These opportunities will help you get to know your child’s friends and allow them time to form healthy bonds. It can also help to get to know your child’s friend’s parents. You can be a support group to one another and clue each other in if there is any concerning behavior among the friend group.
Ultimately, teenagers are searching to find out who they are. They want to develop their own individual personality, but they also want to be accepted and affirmed. You can expect your child to try out different styles of clothes, music, interests, extracurriculars and even friend groups. Be sure to offer you child plenty of affirmation as they explore. Keep the lines of communication open and seek to have nonjudgmental conversations. Help your child see the logical consequences of their actions and set clear boundaries. Give your child the confidence they need to stay away from bad influences, as well as opportunities to meet friends with similar interests and aspirations.
A friend group can have a strong influence on a developing teen. The choices teenagers make in high school can impact the trajectory of their future. If you feel lost and don’t know how to help you child succeed both academically and socially, don’t be afraid to get help. Talk to your child’s guidance counselor or an influential teacher for ideas about how to help your child succeed.
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