You know how much your tween’s mood can be affected by her friendships, but your peace of mind is at stake, as well. You breathe a sigh of relief when your tween brings home someone who fits well with your family — has similar rules, talks and dresses respectfully, likes enriching activities. But a new friend who likes to challenge or undermines your values can make you fear you’ll lose your influence.
“Bad” friends can take different forms. They can be a negative influence, be unkind and upset your child, or be someone who simply grates on you. Tweens need to choose their friends and, rightly, give you little say in the matter. It’s doubtful that you’ll like every friend who steps through the door, but in fact, that’s sometimes why your child chooses a particular friend. Tweens find out about themselves through the friends they choose. Sometimes they select someone who’s different to find out what it might be like to be naughty, noisy, or more carefree, for example. They aren’t trying to annoy you, but are discovering who they do and don’t get along with.
The most effective way to handle your disappointment is to remain quiet. If it’s not an unhealthy relationship, it’s not your business to interfere. Tweens change friends frequently, so any individual who bothers you is unlikely to stay for long, especially as your child may soon see the same flaws you do. You may even discover that your first concerns were unfounded when you get to know the friend better.
- Discuss Healthy Relationships. It’s important that a friend respects ideas, shares, gives and takes, doesn’t exploit, and is fun. Talking about this may help your tween reassess.
- Encourage Other Friendships. Rather than forbid your tween to see someone, encourage outings with those whom you like. Rather than speak ill of the disliked child, speak well of others you trust.
- Talk to the School. A teacher who agrees that a friendship is unhelpful can arrange class work to keep certain students apart. They can’t usually change recess time but may have other useful suggestions about things like school clubs.
- Reduce Contact. If you’re really worried, set up activities to occupy him at the time your tween tends to see the friend in question. Limit electronic contact by setting clear house rules on computer or phone use.
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