As your children grow into teenagehood, you will find that as they begin the process of finding themselves, they will look to other influences beyond yours. The most immediate and important new role models for your children are likely to be friends from their peer group. This is natural, but given their lack of life experience, it is possible that your teenagers might meet and model themselves after peers with unhealthy lifestyles and destructive values.
Be There for Them
The best way to help your child and to gently steer them towards a positive peer group is to get to know their friends and if there are destructive elements in those friendships to be there for your child and help them to deal with the issues not only as a parent, but also as a friend.
Getting to know your teenager’s friends is a great way to get to know the people they keep close to. You will interact with them and you will get a glimpse into the life of your teenager. More importantly, by being a better judge of character, you can help your teenagers avoid doing something they might later regret.
Offer Constructive Advice
Getting to know your teenager’s friends also gives you an insight into who your teenager is. While teenagers are easily influenced by their friends, parents play a big part in influencing their teens as much as their friends do. You don’t have to exert your influence but if you and your teenager’s friends have a relationship, you can in turn offer constructive advice.
Throughout your teenager’s life, they will experience setbacks in the friendships they form. Betrayals and petty squabbles are part and parcel of growing up and learning, and being able to relate to the crisis because you know the people involved means that your teenager will find it easier to open up and talk to you about it.
Get to Know Their Friends’ Parents Too
All parents want peace of mind when it comes to their teenagers, as they worry constantly that they might be running with a bad crowd. However, if you don’t understand the context of their relationships or personally know their friends, giving advice risks damaging the relationship between you and your teenager. Aside from getting to know their friends, you can also develop a relationship with their friends’ parents as well. Getting to know their parents will certainly make you worry less especially if your teenager hangs out at their home regularly. You would have another adult that you can trust and communicate with in turn, offering each other support and a wider network of information and guidance.
Open Up Your Home
Encourage your teenagers to invite their friends over when you are home; it would be a good opportunity for you to get to know the type of people your teenagers hang out with. Interact with their friends and never be too quick to judge. Give your teenagers and their friends space to behave as teenagers and not how they would in front of an adult.
Keep an Open Mind
Never base your judgments on first impressions, do not tell your teenager to stop hanging out with their friends because of a negative vibe. Tradition and culture change with time and so do teenage behaviours. For example, tattoos and piercings may have been viewed as signs of trouble and gangsterism when you were young, but this may no longer be the case today. Try not to shun their friends or put up barriers because they seem different. Remember that your actions can either invite or drive your teenager further away.
Be sincere in getting to know them, in fact, get to know them and take an interest in their lives. The better they get to know you, the more willing they will be to open up to you.
Your teenager is at an age where friends are an important social need, they will spend less time with you and more with their friends and that is only natural. Preventing them from doing so may result in rebelliousness and damage your relationship. Remember to be strict but reasonable.
The herd mentality is common in teenage cliques – they are more easily influenced by their friends, so getting to know their friends will tell you if they are the kind of friends your teenager should be hanging out with.
Be sincere in getting to know your teenager’s friends; children have a strong sense of genuine, caring behaviour and will respond positively to it.