What if Your Teenager Has a Bad Friend?
Teenagers are profoundly impacted by friendships. Who they hang around with can be wonderful and propel them forward in a positive, life-giving way. But what do you do when your teenager’s friends appear to be dragging them down? What do you do when it appears your teenager is connected with certain red flag relationships that are spiraling in a negative direction?
This month’s video will help you as a parent deal with similar situations if they arise.
The book of Proverbs encourages us to guard against dangerous relationships: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.” Prov. 22:24-25.
However, as much as you may want to forcibly intervene and insist your teenager cut off friendships that negatively influence them, a head-on approach will most likely propel your teenager deeper into these friendships. Worse than that, this approach could very well develop deep-seated resentment against you. Your teenager may pull away, and refuse to listen to you and side with their friend(s).
What is more important than you making your teen change their friendships is to give them tools to identify for themselves the need for a friendship change. Come alongside your teenager and initiate a general conversation about friends. Ask your teen if they think certain influences are helping or hurting. This type of conversation may be more beneficial than trying to tell your teen to distance themselves from certain people.
Most friendships are not developed overnight and they will not be over that quickly either. Seek God’s help; ask for patience to walk through this season with your teenager in a way that loves but does not insist in getting its way.
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Your teen is going to pick his friends, the good and the bad. You may find that your teen simply chooses a friend that has a negative influence on their life. Supposed “friends” can lead your teen into sin, or worse, lead your teen astray in regard to their faith.
There are times when it is necessary to intervene as a parent when your child is in a poisonous friendship, especially if the friendship may have long-term negative consequences; doing so takes much wisdom and discernment. There are number of ways you can indirectly influence your child and help him or her to stay out of trouble.
Be careful not to attack the friend or the friends in question when discussing with your teen what needs to change. Focus on the negative changes you are seeing in your teenager. Instead of saying, “Your friend Johnny is a loser and going nowhere,” consider saying, “Hey, the change in your grades and the way that we communicate is concerning to me so we’re going to have to make a change in your free time options.” This keeps the focus on them and on your love for them. This does not mean you cannot criticize the other teen’s behavior. It reasonable and quite fair to tell your child that you object to the kinds of things his friend is doing. However, don’t make it a personal attack.
A loving way to intervene is to generate a conversation where you ask your teen about their current friendships, and if there are any that they feel are dragging them down. Without lecturing your teen, see if you can ask them what they think are some bad consequences of maintaining a bad friendship. You can influence your teen to make better decisions without being the one to tell them how to do it.
It’s also important to consider the possibility your child is the one instigating the change in others. Though painful to acknowledge, don’t turn a blind eye to this possibility. Enter into the situation with eyes wide so you can make the best decision moving forward.
There are times when you simply may need to draw a boundary line of safety for your teen that they aren’t able to do on their own. This may involve making some difficult decisions for your teenager…and they may not like it. For example, you may have to restrict your teen from hanging out with their friend except when in a controlled environment that you can monitor, such as in your home or a group setting.
Ultimately, always encourage your teen that he or she has freedom of choice when it comes to making friends, as long as they stay within the acceptable zone that you discuss with them.
We hope this resource is an encouragement to you in your parenting.