8 Tips for Coping When Your Teen Chooses Bad Friends

8 Tips for Coping When Your Teen Chooses Bad Friends

Parents don’t always like their kids’ friends so here’s how to cope when you don’t.

By: Judy Koutsky

In a perfect world, you’d like all your kid’s friends. But the teenage years are often about rebelling. Whether your kid has a friend with blue hair or hangs with a rowdy crowd, you may not always approve of his picks. Here are some tips on handling the situation.

1. Figure out why you don’t like the friend. There usually comes a time in parenthood when you do not like a friend in your teen’s life. It is very important to assess why you may not like this individual. “You should ask yourself the following questions,” says Nekeshia Hammond, PsyD in clinical psychology. “Is this truly a toxic relationship for my child? Is my child at risk for emotional or physical harm? Is it something trivial that I don’t like about this individual (like their clothing style, hair color, or taste in music)?” Getting to the heart of why you don’t like this friend is the first step in dealing with the issue.

2. Explain to your child what makes a good friend. Give your kids examples of people in your own life who have been good friends. Tell your teen that a good friend “wants positive things to happen to him and will support him either way,” says Kelly Tonelli, clinical psychologist and author of Life Lessons for Teenage Girls. “A good friend sticks around when bad things happen and are the loudest cheerleader when positive events occur.”

3. Find a positive way to interact with this friend. “If the friend is not negatively influencing your child, but instead you don’t like something about him -- his personality, clothing style, or manners -- then it’s smart to find a positive way you can interact with this person,” says Hammond. Keep it short and polite – ask how the friend is doing, then go about your day. It’s your prerogative not to like him, but it’s also your child’s choice to be friends with him.

4. Ask your child why he likes this friend. “If your teen is hanging with the ‘wrong crowd’ where they are truly bad influences (such as drinking alcohol, using drugs, cutting or putting your child down), then a discussion needs to take place with your child,” says Hammond. Talk to your child openly about why he likes that friend. Hear his side. Then express some of your concerns and ask your teen to list pros and cons of being in a friendship with that person.


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5. Set limits. “Often times, it is best to allow the friendship (if safety is not an issue), but set appropriate limits and guidelines. Perhaps, their interactions are only allowed when other kids are around,” says Tonelli. Setting limits allows your child some interaction with this other child, but exposes your child to other friends, too.

6. Try to avoid banning the friend. While your instinct may be to ban this person, this is not always the best approach. “Try and get your teen to recognize for themselves the negative consequences in their friendship,” says Hammond. She notes that banning a friend often leads to rebellion and your child may get closer to that friend just to prove his point.

7. Be accepting. “You should try your best not to criticize your child’s choice in making friends. Teens are still learning how to socialize,” says Hammond. “Hearing ‘I can’t believe you chose that girl (or boy) to be your friend!’ is not a great start to a conversation.” So unless the friend is truly a bad influence, accept him and move on.

8. Keep an open mind. Maybe this is a teachable moment for you, the parent. “Are your views of ‘good’ too narrow?” asks Tonelli. Be sure to keep an open mind that your child will be friends with a variety of different personalities coming from different social and cultural backgrounds.

Have you ever disliked your child’s friends? How did you deal with it?

Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of Parenting.com, AOL Parent and BabyTalk.com. Follow her on twitter @JudyKoutsky.

Image ©iStock.com/LindaYolanda

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If I don't like my kids friends I am quick to let them know

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