The transition from junior high into high school is a big one for your teen, and it often leads to significant changes in your teen’s circle of friends. The friends that you’re used to your teen hanging around may drift away as they get involved with different things in high school, and your teen may connect with another group entirely–a group that you believe is influencing your teen in a negative way. If you think your teen has fallen in with the wrong crowd, you may want to take the following steps to intervene.
- Talk to Your Teen
If you’ve been on autopilot for a while with your teen and the lines of communication are a little dusty, spending more time with your teen is often in order. If your teen knows you care about what’s going on in their life, they will be more likely to listen to what you have to say. The way you approach talking about your teen’s friends is crucial. Teens will defend their friends to the death and will often shut down and close themselves off to you if they feel you are attacking them. Instead, first talk about how your teen’s behavior has changed since he or she started hanging out with a particular group of friends. Firmly explain what types of behavior are acceptable and unacceptable.
When you finally broach the topic of your teen’s friends, make sure you discuss the specific types of behavior they exhibit that you’re unhappy with, rather than vague, sweeping criticisms. Doing this lessens the chances of your teen thinking you just blindly hate their friends for no reason. For example, “I think that so-and-so is disrespectful of his parents. I saw him cussing out his mother in the parking lot after the basketball game. That’s not okay, and I don’t want you to think it’s okay to treat me that way either.”
- Invite the Friends over
Typical responses when you talk to your teen about his or her friends are “You don’t even KNOW my friends!” or “You just don’t understand.” If this is the case, open up your home and have your teen’s friends over a time or two. Order in some pizzas and spend some time with them. Make an honest attempt at building a relationship with them. You don’t have to hover, but get an idea of who they are, their personalities and what makes them tick. This is an important part of assessing your teen’s circle of friends. Sometimes they’re not as bad as their hard exterior and crazy hair lead you to believe.
- Get to Know Their Friends’ Parents
If your child is getting into trouble with a group of friends, chances are there are a couple other parents out there who aren’t happy about it either. Get in touch with the parents of your teen’s friends and discuss what you can do to counter what’s happening when your teens get together. While it’s tempting to play the blame game, don’t fall into that trap. You don’t want to ostracize the adult(s) who can help reinforce any separation or disciplinary action you have to take.
- Find Positive Mentors
Finally, is there an old friend of your teen’s who’s doing well in school and could talk to your teen about his or her behavior and choice of friends? Is there a trusted family member, older teen or 20-something that your teen looks up to who could take them under their wing? If your teen won’t listen to your warnings about their friends, perhaps they will listen to someone who’s been in their shoes more recently.
Be an educated parent, you will have safer and healthier teens.