The teen years are a time when friends can rival parents in importance. Parents may be frustrated and fearful of the values a child's peers may hold. The wisest response is to know your teen's friends and their values. This is not prying. It is an honest concern for your teen's safety and well-being.
- Know your teen's friends personally. Meet their parents.
- Are the peer group's values the same as your family's? If not, discuss this with your teen.
- Include the friends in family activities. This will give you a chance to get to know the friends. It also will give you a chance to casually talk about your rules and expectations.
- Teach teens the key to choosing friends is not to become popular. Friends should support your teen, enjoy many of the same things and contribute positively to your teen's life.
- Know what to do when you do not approve. Following are some tips for handling this situation:
- Examine your feelings. Is there a logical reason to dislike a friend of your child?
- Do not flatly forbid friendships of which you do not approve. It seldom works and strains communication with your teen.
- Talk to the teen about why a particular friend or group is not healthy. Be specific.
- Encourage your teen to seek healthy friendships outside his or her clique.
Remind your teen that truly popular people are those who accept and build friendships with everyone. Know when to compromise and when to fight. A wild hairstyle will pass, but tattoos, teen pregnancies and drug addictions have lifelong consequences.
The best way to help your teen make good decisions about friends is to provide plenty of love, support and encouragement. Teens need to have enough selfesteem to form their own opinions and not simply follow a group of friends. Standing up for beliefs is an important part of maturity. Teens with healthy self-esteem are less likely to cave in to the peer pressures of smoking, drinking, taking drugs or having sex.
The bottom line is that cliques are a part of every teen's life. With the right guidance, your child's teen years can be a smooth transition into adulthood with good friends and positive experiences.