Have you ever found yourself saying “I don’t like my child’s friend?” As children develop their autonomy and sense of self, their friendships often times reflect their interests, values, and status in the social environment. Whether it is in school, on the soccer field, or in religious school class, children are exposed to a variety of peers and have many opportunities to connect with others to satisfy a sense of stability within the social fabric of their world. Although the acquiring of peers can be a validating and comforting process, what is the role of the parent when your child has identified a “bad egg” that you just can’t stand???
Tips When You Don’t Like Your Child’s Friend
- Recognize and monitor your feelings. These feelings are your feelings and not the same sentiments that your child experiences. Be cognizant of how you talk about this friend and the non-verbal language that you may communicate (not asking questions about this one particular friend, using a sarcastic tone, exasperated speech when you find out your child spent all of recess/lunch with this person, closed off posture, etc.) as these send messages to your child about how you feel about their friend. Your negative feelings may cause your child to become tight-lipped about their future interactions, therefore reducing the ability to process why this person might not be great friend material. On the contrary, your child may become awkward or cut-off from their friend but not truly understand why they are not a good fit. Check your emotions before dialoguing about this friend to turn every opportunity into a calm, teaching opportunity.
- Identify the value that your child finds in this friend and help them to develop more appropriate boundaries and relationships. Sit down with your child and find out what value and function this friend serves. Are they loud but nice? Impulsive yet inclusive? Are they mean yet popular? Help your child create a list of criteria that constitutes “good friends” and help them see that popular is not as important as being inclusive, kind, and share common interests. Also it is important to note that just because the friend might be loud or impulsive, does that constitute not being a good friend? Everyone has a variety of qualities and in this situation, do the good outweigh the bad as no one is perfect.
- Get your eyes on the situation to oversee what you perceive as negative to, in fact, determine if this person is a negative influence. Have your child invite their friend over to observe their interactions, how this person treats your child, and to evaluate all qualities to determine if your bias is accurate. Where does your bias come from? Your experiences, both positive and traumatic from growing up. Sometimes working overtime to prevent against negative experiences in your child’s peer relationships limits their bank of experiences and the lessons they can learn even from situations that may seem upsetting.