You may very well know some of your teenager’s friends because they grew up together. And if your teen and their childhood friends grow apart, they will soon make new friends. As a parent, you want make an effort to get to know your teenager’s friends for some very good reasons.
Has your teen changed in dramatic ways recently? If so, you may be concerned that your teen’s friends are a bad influence on them. If you don’t know those friends, can you accurately determine the reason for the changes? If you get to know your teen’s friends you may be able to understand why they’ve changed the way they have.
Don’t become accusatory about your teen and their friends. Try to avoid saying, “You’ve changed so much since you made new friends. I think you should stop being friends with them.” This may be what you’re feeling but this is the time that silence is truly golden.
Instead, ask your teen if they want to invite their friends over to play video games or watch a movie. You can plan on having a snack which will give you a chance to get to know your teen’s friends a little bit while they’re in your home. If your teen is hesitant, don’t push it. Tell them you’d like to leave the suggestion on the table and they are welcome to discuss having them visit later on.
Allowing your teen to bring their friends to your house serves another purpose as well. The more your teen and friends spend time at your home the less worrying you have to do about where they are and what they’re doing. Find other ways to meet them if your teen doesn’t want to bring them home. Offer to drive them to and from the mall if none of them have driver’s licenses, or think of another way to meet them.
Try to understand why your teen is friends with these particular people. Are they going through a phase or have their interests changed? If you can’t figure out why they’re friends, don’t be afraid to ask. You may have to reassure them that you’re not prying on them, but that you’re merely interested in learning more about them.
Do what you can to discourage relationships that you know to be unhealthy either because of drug or alcohol use. Limit the amount of time they can spend together; do whatever it takes to keep them apart. At the same time, encourage healthy friendships they already have.
Stress to your teen the importance of following your rules while living at home, including those regarding friends that you deem to be inappropriate. They may not like the rules, or being kept from a friend, but in the end they’ll realize it was for their own good.
Getting to know your teen’s friends is important because you may be able to recognize a bad influence before they do. Give them the benefit of the doubt concerning many things, but if drugs or alcohol are in the picture, do everything you can to protect them – whether they want your help or not.