When Your Kids Friends are a Bad Influence

What do you do when you feel like your kid's friends are a "bad influence"?

You worry about your children, that's part of what parents do. Even when the kids are forty the sense of responsibility and the urge to protect stays strong. The question is how do you use your concern for your children constructively?

So when you start worrying about the company your child is keeping how do you approach the situation? An important first step might be to have a close look at what is bothering you. Is it really a problem?

It's quite possible, even probable, that you won't like all of your children's friends. That in itself doesn't make them a bad friend for your child. Rough edges tend to be much easier to ignore or forgive in your own children than they are in others. When you don't like your children's friends it may be that you are responding to something quite superficial, like how they dress, or whether their manners come up to your expectations.

Sometimes the issue is more serious. You may feel that contact with a particular friend, or group puts your child at risk. Perhaps you worry that they will drink to excess, take drugs, or drive dangerously if they spend time with this friend. Perhaps your worries are about shoplifting, bullying or wagging school. Perhaps it is more to do with the "attitude" you see developing in your child as the friendship develops.

These things are all very real worries for parents. But they don't necessarily make the friends into a problem. You make friends with people because they are attractive to you. If your child is seeking friends who take risks, skip school, get in trouble, it's probably because at the moment, they find that behaviour attractive, exciting or intriguing at some level.

Ultimately, it is your child that is going to chose to take drugs or not, to skip school or not, to respect themselves and other people or not. The most direct route to your child's safety is to support them to make responsible decisions for themselves.

If they are feeling pressure to do things they're not comfortable with, then they need you as an ally. You might be their best source of information and ideas about alternatives.

If you can express confidence in their ability to make their own choices you may find it makes a positive difference to their safety and the kinds of decisions they make.

It's not a magic formula. Kids will still take risks, make mistakes and suffer the consequences. That is a normal part of growing. There is every chance that children who feel trust, confidence and support from their parents will have less to prove.

Working together, you and your child can probably come up with lots of lower risk ways that allow them to explore the things that interest them. If you can remember what excited you at 5 and 8 and 15, it might help you to listen as much to your children's excitement as you do to your own concern for their safety.

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