When Your Child’s Friends Spell TROUBLE
Counselor's Corner By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT
Many parents fantasize about finding a way to guide their child toward making constructive friendships. It often remains a dream though, because children usually resent and resist parental influence over their choice of friends.
Often a parent has only to comment unfavorably about a friend for the chld to immediately seek out that friend before others.
Despite the obstacles, parents can reach their children and provide effective guidance, influencing a child’s selection of friends and reducing negative peer pressure without raising suspicions that they are interfering in their child’s social life.
Your first step is to become more aware of exactly who the members of your child’s peer group are, as well as what type of behavior they cultivate and what their interests are. Exactly how does this knowledge of your child’s peer group help you influence your child’s choice of friends? When you see a peer you have identified as trouble appear on the horizon, your “alarm” goes off and you can take action whenever you can.
Your second step is to redirect the child, and there are two strategic actions to this step. One is distraction: you refocus the child’s attention, distracting her from “trouble” peers by offering other activities that your child has interest. If these activities are of a group nature, it gives her the opportunity of meeting new people. And, if you haven’t already done so, you may need to discuss and role-play how to meet new people using greeting and chit-chat skills.
The second strategic action is discussion: you and your child talk about the issue of friendship, and any related issues, in order to increase the child’s objectivity about his peers. This discussion has to be handled delicately otherwise your child will view it as a lecture and criticism of his friend. This talk needs to include what qualities your child wants in a friend and whether both sides are getting what they want and need. Next, help the child evaluate his friend in the context of the way a healthy friendship has been defined in the discussion. Your aim is to help him think about his associates and draw his own conclusions about which are good company and which he should spend less time with from now on.
Excerpted from Sharon Scott’s parent guide Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed. (www.hrdpress.com/sharonscott or 800-822-2801).
Copyright 2013, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.
Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out,not just fit in!
A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.
Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy cocker spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun.Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled Too Smart for Trouble.