As a parent, there may come a time when you question the influence of your child’s friends. It may happen early when your child is still in grade school or more typically will occur during the middle and high school years. It is likely your child’s friends are going to influence him in one or more ways. Some influences may be good, but others may be negative and even place your child in dangerous situations. To help diffuse bad influences, you must be aware and proactive.
Observe. When children begin to develop new friendships, they often adopt styles from these new friends. Be alert to changes in clothing preferences, hairstyles, makeup and even music. A switch from jeans and t-shirts to micro-minis may be a red flag. Ask about the new outfit and if she really believes it is appropriate for school. Ask your child to tell you about their new musical tastes. Where did he find this new artist? Why does he like this artist?
Safety first. At any age, your children’s health, safety and overall well-being is your first priority. A new friend with no curfew and few parental restrictions may seem fun and exciting to your child, but this freedom can put him in danger. Always ask where your child is going, who he is going with and what is planned. Make sure your teen knows you will follow up when he assures you that parents will be supervising the party. No parental supervision, no party. You may get defiance, tears or a combination of both, but you have to stand your ground.
Talk and listen. Parents easily can fall into the trap of talking at their children instead of having an actual conversation. Dr. Larry D. Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University advises, “Communication is the crux of parenting. You need to talk to your kids, or rather listen to them. The ratio of parent listen to parent talk should be at least five-to-one. Talk one minute and listen for five.” If you suspect your child’s new friend is a bad influence, sit down and talk to him about the friendship. Really listen to your child’s responses and from there you can determine if this is a relationship to cause worry or not.
Potential red flags. Teens easily are influenced by their friends. If your suspect new friends are a bad influence on your child, look for the red flags. How is your child changing? Has he become disrespectful to you, his siblings and his old friends? Does he still hang out with or talk to his old friends? Is there a drop in grades? Has he quit his favorite activity or dropped out of a sport he’s always loved? If any of these red flags come up, it’s time to consider removing the bad influences from your child’s life.