We all know that we are judged by what we do and who we associate with, but do our teens understand the importance of association? It seems that a rite of passage for adolescents is to be associated with a particular group. Those groups can be labeled jocks, nerds, Goths, etc. Being labeled with a group has its issues, as does being isolated from groups and seen as an outcast or loner.
But what if you donít like your adolescentís friends? Or maybe you donít know who they are. What can you do if you think your adolescent is being overly influenced by their friends and you feel your influence is diminishing? These are important and pertinent questions during various phases of adolescent growth and development. This article will offer some suggestions about how to answer these questions in ways that strengthen the parent-adolescent relationship instead of creating additional conflict.
If you donít like your adolescentís friends, before talking with them about it, discuss it with a trusted advisor or someone from the school who might know them in a different way than you do. If you are involved in their school, it is more likely that you will have access to that information just by hearing about school issues and student needs at the school. The school counselor might not be able to discuss another child, but they can certainly discuss any concerns you have about your child and their involvement with certain groups and activities. Once you have more information, begin a conversation with your child about their activities at school and with friends. If you want to distance them from a particular group, suggest other activities that will involve them with a different group and perhaps teach them more independence in thought and behavior. Good examples of this are music, dance, and voice, drama, cooking, or writing activities. More meditative practices, such as Tai Chi, yoga, Aikido, meditation, etc. can also help them be more self-reflective. Most teens go through a poetry-writing phases and good writing skills are useful anytime in life.
The main thing is to avoid this being a ďmy way or the highwayĒ kind of interaction. Teens are developmentally moving towards independence anyway and this will send them running that way. More useful is teaching them about win-win and negotiation, knowing that you might not get everything you want, but you can continue you to guide them while allowing them appropriate independence.