A teenager naturally broadens horizons during adolescence, often including a variety of peers in his “inner circle” of friends. As a parent, you may have reservations about certain friends if you see qualities or behaviors that concern you. Proceed carefully when you have these issues with your child’s friends. The wrong move could strengthen a bond instead of making it less important to your teen.
Pay attention to that uncomfortable feeling you get about a specific friend to determine the basis for the feeling, suggests the Partnership for a Drug-Free America website. Analyze your concerns or reservations to determine whether they are based on specific issues you’ve witnessed or know to be facts, or are they more a general unease. For example, while piercings and black clothing may seem ominous, these outward appearances don’t always indicate a teenager with behavioral issues. On the other hand, a teenager with a criminal record and a habit of truancy is probably not a good influence on your child.
Criticizing May Backfire
Adolescents often have an unspoken code of conduct that places friends as a top priority above anyone else, warns social worker James Lehman, with the Empowering Parents website. If you openly criticize friends your teen hangs out with, you may unwittingly lead your teenager to feel obligated to defend her friends against your attacks. In the end, your criticisms may increase an attachment instead of decreasing it. As your child feels the need to protect her friends from your judgments and criticisms, it’s common for your child to adopt a stance of open and significant hostility.
Have a conversation with your teenager about her friends, but keep it respectful and nonjudgmental, advises the Aspen Education Group. Focus the conversation on your observations and things you know, such as changes in your own teenager’s behavior or appearance. Tell your teenager that you have concerns about a connection between these changes and your teen’s friends. Make the basis of your conversation your concerns about your child’s safety and well-being, wanting to be certain that your adolescent feels strong and confident to withstand negative peer pressure, should it arise.
Impose Careful Limits
When you seek to limit your child’s exposure to specific friends, limiting your child’s time away from home may be one option. You might institute limitations on school-night socializing away from home. You could also impose limits on where your child goes and what he does when he goes out. If you catch your child in secretive behavior, impose consequences for breaking rules. If you have irrefutable evidence that your adolescent’s friends are engaging in dangerous or illegal behavior, this would be the time to impose stringent limits about your child’s association with these peers. Hold your child accountable if he disobeys your limits.
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