Avoid Criticizing Their Friends RepeatedlyTeens are highly tribal and depend on their friends to feel included and understood. Since much of their social and emotional wellbeing depends on their friends’ acceptance, when your teen hears you criticizing their friends, it is likely that your teen will take it as a personal attack. However, just because you should avoid repeated criticism of your teen’s bad friends, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t express yourself and your concerns. You will just need to switch the focus of the issue.
Focus On The Behaviors, Not The IndividualsWhen it comes to discussing with your teen their bad friends, make sure you focus on the behavior rather than the friends themselves. Consider these statements: #1 - “I don’t want you hanging out with those kids from school. They use drugs and are going to get you to do it too because they think it’s cool.” #2 - “I’m worried about you hanging out where drugs are being used. It’s tough to turn it down if everyone else is doing it, and even if you don’t use anything, you can still get in trouble if you get caught with people using drugs.” In the first statement, the issue lies on the friends, and they are the center of the argument. But in reality, the main problem is the behavior of the bad friends. With the first statement, your teen is likely to push back hard, as you are attacking their friends and their own ability to stand up for themselves. Even if you didn’t mean it that way, a self-conscious teen will take it that way. With the second statement, you give them a clear and good reason why you are concerned about them hanging out with negative influences. As it is likely that you raised your teen to not abuse illegal substances, your concerns about pressure and run-ins with the law will likely have a more significant impact.
Provide Your Teen With Limits On Interactions With Bad FriendsIn most cases, even if you are very convincing and your teen is somewhat receptive, it can be hard for teens to change friend groups, particularly after the school year has already started. This circumstance can leave your teen hanging out with the bad friends at school just so that they aren’t all alone. While you can’t do much about what your teen does at school, you can limit the interaction with your teen’s bad friends outside of school. You don’t have to allow your teen hang out time with them outside of school and that can go a long way in mitigating the trouble that your teen can get into.
Utilize Structure To Reinforce Your Set LimitsOnce you set the limits on your teen, you can reinforce the limits with a structured schedule for your teen. The school day provides a good deal of easy structure, and you can set up a check system to ensure that your teen attends class. One idea may be that your teen has to get a signature from each teacher in their student planner or you can see if there is an online system that parents can access to check on grades and attendance. Outside of school, you can set up a structured schedule for your teen to follow. Therapeutic treatment centers for troubled teens often have clear schedules to keep teens busily engaged in good activities such as exercise, learning new skills like cooking and other practical life skills. You can do the same, setting times for homework, after school exercise to help balance your teen’s mood, and other activities you feel are appropriate.
Help Your Teen Meet New People To Make Better FriendsPart of why teens resist giving up their bad friends is because they don’t want to be completely without friends. However, replacing your teen’s friends isn’t as easy as arranging a hangout with “approved” children. That’s a pretty surefire way to get your kid to resent the other teen and refuse to have anything to do with them. Instead, get your teen involved in new activities to help your teen naturally make better friends. Some options you may want to consider are:
- Local sports leagues
- Hobby groups (robotics club, makerspaces)
- Local volunteer groups