As parents you want the best for your child – and that includes friends. Your young ones obviously like the other kids they choose to spend time with, but what if you don’t? When should you turn a blind eye to personality traits and behaviour that puts you off, and when should you step in? Every situation is different, but here are some guidelines to dealing with your child’s friendships – especially those you have doubts about.
Learn to relax
Don’t try to control who they spend time with. Being allowed to choose their own friends is a part of growing up and an important learning experience. Researchers at New York University’s Child Study Centre say children learn a lot from interacting with friends and you should let them get on with it, even if you don’t approve of the relationship.
“Learning to deal with peer pressure, competition and difference is a necessary part of development. Helping children deal with pressure from friends is more important than protecting them from it,” advises the centre.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Just because your child’s friend is covered in piercings, has terrible table manners, or likes music that sounds like jungle animals being tortured, it doesn’t mean they’re a bad kid. By the same token, beautifully dressed, well-presented kids can be trouble once your back is turned. Look past first impressions and get to know them.
Try not to criticise. Your child’s friends mean a lot to them, especially as they get older, and some youngsters will see you having a go at their friends as having a go at them. If something annoys you, but really isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things, let it go. Save the negative comments for when they really matter.
Open your door
Welcome them into your home. This is the easiest way to get to know your child’s friends and what they’re really like. Spend a few minutes chatting with them about innocuous matters whenever they come over and you’ll learn a lot. These informal conversations may affect their attitude and behaviour towards you – many kids respond well to an adult who shows an interest in them, as long as it isn’t done in a prying way.
Lay down the law
Make sure your child and their friends know the rules in your household, and enforce them. Be clear and consistent, and make sure they understand that while they’re under your roof, the rules apply to them too, even if they are allowed to do things differently at home. If they know where they stand, they may be less likely to push the boundaries.
Find the attraction
Try and understand why they would choose to spend time with this person. Figuring out what it is that attracts your child to their friends can help you become more accepting of the relationship, and less distrustful of the friend.
Recognise when to step in. It’s one thing to dislike one of your child’s friends because they are noisy, but you shouldn’t ignore behaviour that could put your child at risk. Sit your child down and explain your concerns. Chances are they could share them, but feel unsure about how to deal with the situation.