Is your child under the influence of a friend that is involved in drugs, alcohol, skipping school, underage sexual activity and other problem behaviors? As a parent, you want the best for your child, and we all hope our children will make the right choices – and they often do. Although parents should not be obsessive about controlling every detail of a child’s life, there are actions that can be taken that will help you protect your child.
Meet the Parents
If your child has special friends, take the time to meet the parents. Invite them to your home for a casual get-together, or engage them in conversation at school functions. Find out more about them. When people come to your home, problem areas can become very evident, such as over-consumption of alcohol or other types of behaviors.
If your child, whether a teen or younger child, is planning on spending the night, a vacation or extended time with another family, you need to know more about the family than just the address and phone number. Call and speak with the parents. If you have serious concerns, you can run a background check on the parents. This can be helpful if you have recently moved into a new area and have not had time to get to know families in the community. The background check will reveal any arrest data or criminal history.
Make your home a welcoming place for your child’s friends. Providing good snacks is always popular with hungry young people. Don’t constantly hover, but do check in from time to time, and listen to the conversation. Learn their names. Be friendly. You can get a good general idea about your child’s friends by listening to the conversation.
As our children enter the “tween” and teen years, they are starting the journey towards adulthood. They want to make more of their own decisions, and don’t want to be treated like a child – and yet they are children. This puts parents in an awkward position, and making the transition successfully can make a big difference in your child’s future.
Adolescents can lash out at their parents, or can become withdrawn and uncommunicative. Breaking through the wall and getting back into good communication with your child is crucial during this stage of development. If they are not in communication with you, they will find someone to fill the void – and it may not be healthy. Overcome your own frustration, and treat your teenager with respect. The “golden rule” is the best guiding principle. Treat your child how you would like to be treated. He or she is learning how to act directly from you, and you set the example.
During the teenage years, friends are even more important, and more influential. What they think, say and do may put your child at risk, and you, as a parent, must have the ability to find out more about these close associations. There are several simple ways you can get information about your child’s friends. One of the easiest methods is to look over social media accounts. Check out the Facebook page and Instagram account to review the comments, photos and other information that has been posted. This information can be very revealing.
You can continue to be the person with the greatest influence, even for children in their teen years. Honest communication is critical. You want your child to be honest with you, but he or she won’t be if there is a constant fear of punishment. Be your child’s best friend.
Remember – your child is a unique individual, and has his or her own ideas, opinions and beliefs. Guide, communicate and engage with them, and make your home a safe place in which they can express themselves.
Thankfully, the majority of children make good decisions about friendships.