What To Do if Your Child's Friend is a Bad Influence

by: Rebecca Desfosse
Do you think your child's friend is a bad influence? Here's how to deal with this touchy situation.
What do you do if your child's friend is a bad influence?

When kids are little, you control much of their social circle by setting up play dates and keeping an eye on most of their interactions. Once they hit elementary school and beyond, kids start forging their own social path – and that may include making some friends that aren't always the greatest. Some friendships your child makes might even be toxic, especially if that child is always getting into trouble and encouraging your child to join in. If you're wondering what to do if your child's friend is a bad influence, here are some tips.

Avoid Criticizing

What to do if your child's friend is a bad influence

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Your first line of defense might be to criticize your child's friend. However, according to Kristin Wilson, National Director of Clinical Outreach at Newport Academy, a teen mental health treatment facility, its best to steer clear. "Teenagers can be very defensive of their friends, and you don't want to engage in a power struggle," she says. In other words, by criticizing, you're only going to make the relationship stronger. Instead, make clear statements about your observations of how their friends are acting. For example, "I don't like the way she talks back to adults." Next, review your expectations about your own child's behavior and let them know that you will hold them accountable for their actions, regardless of their friends' behavior.

Set Limits

What to do if your child's friend is a bad influence

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According to Wilson, "Your teen is challenged every day to navigate peer pressure and decide whether or not to break rules, which often leaves parents questioning if or when to step in." However, remember that you're the parent and can set limits for your child. If you know your child's friend is engaging in behavior that you don't agree with, set limits on how much time they spend with that child and where they see them. You might, for instance, decide that they can only see a particular friend in your home so you can keep an eye on them or cut ties altogether.

Talk Often

What to do if your child's friend is a bad influence

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Always keep the line communication open. Talk to your child openly and honestly about your concerns about their friends and ask for their input. "Focus the conversation on your child's feelings about their decisions and their beliefs, and how their friends do or don't influence them. You can add your own input as well—after all, you are still a very important influence for your child—but be sure to listen first," says Wilson. If you're unsure how to approach your child, here are some tips on communicating effectively with teenagers.

If you're wondering what to do if your child's friend is a bad influence, remember to go with your gut, set limits and talk to your child openly and honestly.

Featured photo credit: Sara Lowgren/Flickr