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Your Kids, Their Friends

Andrea Ramsay Speers - Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I imagine all of you love your kids' friends.  They probably come over and politely stop for conversation with you before heading up to your teen's room, and they cheerfully pick up any mess they made, replace anything they may have damaged, and speak politely and with respect to you.  All the time.

No?

What do you do when you don't like your kids' friends?  Or even just one friend in particular?  The worst thing you can do is forbid your teen from seeing this friend.  That's a big fat guarantee to cause sparks between the two of you and quite possibly drive your teen even closer to this ne'er-do-well friend. 

Remember that in this time of growth and independence, there may very well be an element of choosing this particular friend because you won't like him.  And while you may not be able to completely banish this kid from your teen's life, it is a good idea to create some rules for hanging out at your home or other times when they get together.

Sit down with your teens (a family meeting is a great time to do this) and hammer out the details.  How many kids are allowed over at one time?  What areas of the house are off limits?  How must everyone behave -- what behaviour is absolutely unacceptable?  Can friends just walk in to the house or must they knock?  Does everyone have to be introduced to you before slinking off to your teen's sanctuary?  Be specific, be clear on what's important to you, and be prepared for some give and take. 

Focus on the behaviour, not the person.  Saying, "Please remind your friends that we don't swear in this house," is a good way of approaching it.  Saying, "I don't like that kid because of his foul mouth," is less so.  While that may be true, you run the risk of pushing your teen to defend her friend, thinking that you're making a big deal out of nothing because you don't really know what a great kid this friend actually is. 

It's a delicate situation, but take heart: most undesirable friends drift away from your adolescent's life once the novelty wears off.

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Andrea Ramsay Speers • Psychotherapist & Parent Coach • Oakville Family Institute • 175 Glenashton Dr., Oakville ON • Tel.: 905-491-6949

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