Many parents are concerned about their teenager’s friends. Of course, watching kids grow up and develop friendships with people their parents hardly know can produce anxiety about those teens’ values and activities.
But when those friends clearly exhibit problem behaviors, parents may want to discuss the friendship with their teens.
Here are a few tips for handling this situation without alienating your child:
Avoid discussing your teen’s friends while you are angry or upset. This may cause your child to clam up or shut down to avoid an emotional interaction that could escalate to an argument. Wait until you feel level-headed to bring up the topic.
Instead of leveling accusations, ask your teen questions about the friends, such as how they met, what their families are like, and what type of activities they are involved in.
Teens may not want to share information for fear of your response. Questions are a neutral way to get information rather than making blanket statements.
One of the most common reasons teens end up in jail for a short time is drunk driving. This may concern you and even your child, but asking questions to start a rational conversation can help with understanding on both sides.
Be a good listener
As your teen answers questions, be prepared to listen patiently, even if you do not like everything you hear. Ask further questions if clarification is needed.
Try to keep your body language neutral and accepting rather than letting your teen see you recoil in disagreement. When possible, nod or make comments to show you are listening.
Ask your teen’s opinion
If your teen mentions something that seems negative, ask how he or she feels about it. Assuming the teen has been taught specific values, it will be helpful to hear how the situation is described in terms of, or apart from, those values.
If values are not mentioned, ask your teen how certain behaviors measure up, in his or her opinion, to the values that have been taught.
Remind your teen of family values and expectations
If disappointing behaviors are mentioned, remind your son or daughter of family values and standards. Explain that even if his or her friends are doing things that are unacceptable or of which you disapprove, you will continue to hold your teen responsible for his or her own conduct.
State the consequences
Although your teen may already know the consequences of certain behaviors, whether grounding, not driving, or legal action, this may be a good time to point out the parental consequences, as well as potential legal ramifications of certain behaviors like underage drinking. A clear reminder may be all that is needed.
A frank, fair discussion between parent and teen can help to reinforce values and boundaries. Don’t be hesitant to approach your teen in a different way to gain more understanding and initiate conversation.
Informational credit to A-1 Bail Bonds, Inc.
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