Friends are important to growing up, and the ability to choose those friends with encouragement from parents can help them develop better and more meaningful relationships. Kids will meet new people, join new groups, change friends, and develop new relationships many times before they truly find the group that they “fit” with.
Challenge your kids to get to know others from different backgrounds and perspectives and inspire them to judge appropriate friends for character rather than appearance, neighborhood, or style. In addition to exposing your kids to more diversity, it will also help them learn more about themselves. Avoid criticizing friendships, but be honest with your kids when you’re concerned. Avoid condemning friends or you may encourage your children to be more critical of others and less receptive to your worries. Be open and willing to listen to what she has to say, and talk about what makes you nervous. If you feel that one of your child’s friends is having a negative influence on him, invite that friend to spend time with you and your child together so that you can have a positive influence on the relationship. Do not be afraid to interfere if you believe a chosen friend may have a destructive influence on your child and be sure you voice your concerns to your child, asking their opinion and giving that opinion importance.
When talking about a friend who has a negative influence on your child, focus your comments on that friend’s behaviors, not on personality. For example, instead of calling your child’s friend irresponsible for smoking, you could point out that the behavior has a negative effect on health and recommend ways for your child either help that friend or determine if the relationship is worth continuing.
Set limits on how much time your child spends with her friends—it’s important to develop positive relationships with family members as well. Engage your family in service and volunteering (or join a social group) through a local congregation, school, or other nonprofit organization—these events can be great places to meet new friends, and often result in new positive relationships.