Encouraging Positive Relationships
Fact: Friends are often positive influences in children’s lives. In fact, 65% of teenagers surveyed by Search Institute say that their best friends model responsible behavior.
Choosing one’s friends is an important part of growing up. 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. And although you can’t choose your children’s friends, you can have a positive influence on the relationships they make throughout their formative years. Use some of the following strategies to help your children build positive relationships with their friends.
Encourage Diversity- Challenge your children to get to know kids from many different backgrounds and perspectives. In addition to exposing your kids to more diversity, it will also help them learn more about themselves.
Avoid Criticism- Avoid criticizing friendships, but be honest with your kids when you’re concerned. Don’t: Condemn your child’s friends. This may make them defensive and less receptive to what you have to say. Do: Be open and willing to listen to what she has to say, and talk about what makes you nervous.
Get Involved- 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.
Offer Advice- When talking about a friend who has a negative influence on your child, focus your comments on that friend’s behaviors, not on her 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 her health and recommend ways for your child to help her quit.
Set Limits- 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 in Community Service- 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.
1. Developmental Assets: A Profile of Your Youth (Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute, 2005), 2003 weighted aggregate dataset, unpublished report.
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When to Take Action
Betty Wong of Family Circle talks about when parents should get involved in their child's friend choices.