Help! I Don’t Like My Children’s Friends

Children’s relationships are usually fairly innocent, but as they grow up, you may not like who they are hanging around with. Wondering whether it’s just a normal part of growing up or something you should be concerned about? Read on to find out.

 

4 to 6 years old

Let’s hope that you like all your kid’s friends at this tender age. “But there may be cause for concern if a child two or three years older has befriended your son or daughter,” says psychologist Dirk Flower. “It may be completely innocent, but there are children who have difficulty making friends within their own peer group because they are so controlling. They then engage a friendship with a younger child to have a friend/follower.”

Keep an eye on the situations that your child finds himself in and, if you’re concerned, try to limit his contact with this child. Talk to the school if that is where the problem is occurring. Sometimes, the problem is more that you think your child’s friend is a bad influence – perhaps he is rude to you when he comes to your house or he doesn’t use his manners. Avoid getting angry but do set a good example, and say, “We don’t speak to each other like that in this house.” Make sure that all your child’s friends know the house rules when they come to visit – for example, that everyone always says please and thank you.

If you’re really not sure about this friend, invite another child around for a play-date at your house. Most children in this age group will go with the flow, and this gives your little one the chance to get to know someone new.


7 to 10 years old

Children at this age are still mastering the social skills to fit in. “Sometimes young children hang out with the wrong kids simply because they don’t know how to get in with the good ones,” says educational psychologist Mallory Henson. So, for example, your son might want to join in an ongoing football game – but he doesn’t know that you have to ask from the sidelines
whether you can join in, and then wait until they say yes. Instead, he might barge out into the game, which would make the group immediately reject him. Enrolling your child in Brownies, Cub Scouts or another supervised after-school group will help children who are struggling to learn to interact, as will teaching them how to share and ask nicely.

 

11 to 14 years old

We tend to think of teens as rebellious, but in fact they do want to conform – just with their peer group, rather than their parents. Obviously, children need to choose their own friends, and adults shouldn’t be involved in this. However, parents do need to set very clear limits – like what time to expect them home after the cinema and that you don’t permit smoking. But don’t disapprove too much of their friends. “Be tolerant – teens are always going to dress in a way that adults don’t find appealing,” says Mallory. “And if you’re more relaxed, your children will be more likely to invite their friends around occasionally, and that way you can get to know them and keep an eye out.”

Keep teenagers from this age upwards extra busy after school as it’s the key time for mischief-makers. After-school clubs or classes, such as art, sport or amateur dramatics have the added bonus of helping to boost confidence, while providing the opportunity to make friends with similar interests. During the holidays, sign up your kids for camps where they can learn self-discipline and engage in lots of physical activity to let off steam, but also provide the right sort of environment for dealing with different types of young people. It also means they move beyond meeting the same old faces at school.

Finally, just relax – it’s pretty inevitable that you won’t like all your kid’s friends, and that’s absolutely fine. Just be there for your child for when his friendship, as most do, moves on.

Words: Carole Beck


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