So, you live in a nice neighbourhood, but what if your son has begun making friends with kids who are disrespectful and don`t seem to care much about school? Watching your teenage children pick friends can be one of the most frightening or reassuring parts of parenting. Most often, children select friends who reflect the ideals and values modelled at home. However, major changes in life and poor self-concept can interfere with a teenager`s better judgement. We know from experience that criticising your teenagers` friends will almost always backfire and drive them farther away. Stop your natural tendency to criticise or condemn the friends. Instead, work on your relationship with your child. Your relationship with and your attitude to your teen will help him build healthy friendships. Begin by looking at how you communicate and interact with your teen. Use these strategies to build your child`s self-image and to strengthen the relationship between the two of you:
- Tell him every day that you love him.
- Look for accomplishments, especially in things he finds most challenging and compliment him on his effort. For example, if sitting down to do schoolwork is difficult for him, compliment the time and effort he puts into doing the work, even if his grades are not the best.
- Select real and noticeable qualities about your child and mention them. If he has a great sense of humour or talent for creative storytelling, let him know you have noticed it. We have a tendency to only compliment a person`s looks. We all have many other characteristics worth noticing.
- Make time every day to talk with him. Talk about life in general: current events, the news, movies or anything that is not critical. You may only have a few minutes to connect each day but it is important to take those minutes.
- Plan special dates with your teen. Occasionally have some time alone with him doing things that he enjoys such as movies, eating out or going to a sporting event.
- When things do go wrong, avoid long lectures. Be direct about your concerns and feelings. Don`t dwell on the other mistakes he has made. Set expectations and move on. If, for example, your child comes in later than he is supposed to, let him know that it is not acceptable. Tell him that coming in late causes you great worry and interferes with school. Insist that he make an agreement with you about the time to be home. Deal with the problem at hand. Do not bring up past incidents.
- Openly encourage your teen to develop hobbies and healthy interests. Provide money, transportation and other kinds of support to help maintain the hobby. Work with your teen to choose a hobby that really interests him and help him stick with it. New, healthy friendship possibilities open up for teens when they gain new interests, skills and knowledge. Most rewarding, though, is the new self-image teens have when they begin to see themselves as worthwhile and unconditionally loved children.