Good friends are a blessing. And as parents, we know how important it is for our children to form friendships that have a positive impact on their lives. However, a teenager’s choice of friends can sometimes be as alarming as the expletives spewing from their new bestie’s mouth. And while you’re shouting ‘you’re not to hang out with him any more is more likely to see your teen laughing at you than listening to you, rest assured that all is not lost. Influencing them to keep making healthy friendship choices, and resist peer pressure, is possible.
A fresh perspective
According to parenting experts, the trick is to keep your kids’ pals nice and close. “The more you get to know their friends, the more you get to know your child, really,” says clinical psychologist Sally-Anne McCormack. “You see who they value being with, how they’re being treated by their friends, and how they’re treating their friends in return.”
Knowing your kids’ friends can also help you determine if they share similar interests and values. For example, your teenager is more likely to avoid drugs and alcohol if their friends do, or strive to be more studious if their friends are doing well at school, says Deborah Jepsen, an educational and developmental psychologist from Melbourne’s School Psychology Services. “Your child is also more likely to have higher self-esteem and be rewarded by their friendships, if they’re positive ones,” she continues.
Important questions such as – Is your child free to be themselves around their friends? Are their friends insensitive or supportive? Are they a good or bad influence? – can all be better answered when you know their peer group.
Friends can also inadvertently offer insight into your teenager’s behaviour. “For instance, your son might have told you he was bullied at school, but a casual chat with his friends confirms that he said something to start it all off,” says McCormack. “Suddenly, you have a different perspective on the situation, and an opportunity to deal with it more appropriately and constructively.”
Be a parent, not a peer
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