Remember when you were a child? You probably started out like the rest of us – your parents were the greatest things on earth and could do no wrong. As you entered school and the world around you, Mom and Dad lost their luster and the cool factor was found in your friends. It’s no different today; at some point your child will value time with their friends more than time with you. But you need to know what to look out for and know about their friends.
The most important thing to know, in my opinion, is that regardless of where you live or what you think, you cannot assume to know anything about what goes on in the homes of your child’s friends. I believe that if your child is going to spend any time in the home of their friends that you know the parents and even accompany your child for the first visit or two. They could be unwittingly exposed to something that can steal their innocence in a split second, and you’re left to deal with the aftermath. You would never trust just anyone with your money, so don’t trust just anyone with your kids. You know the adults that you like and trust, so you can steer your child to spend time with the children of those families.
Part of your child’s natural development is to absorb input and information from their surroundings and begin to develop ideas and opinions of their own. Normally, this is a healthy behavior if the right inputs are being absorbed. But children pick up on things from one another, and a friend who has differing values, religious views, morals and beliefs from yours can easily convince your child to see things in a way that you would not approve of. I’m not saying that you should brainwash your kids and turn them into little versions of yourself. However, knowing who they are hanging out with and where their influences are coming from should play a big part in your decisions about who they associate with.
Your kids are naturally curious, and sometimes their friends are eager to provide them with answers. While sometimes the answers will be technically correct, other times they will be very wrong. Whether right or wrong, you may not want your child exposed to this information from another child and maybe not at this particular stage in life. Knowing their friends can give you some idea of the types of conversations they have and whether you may need to intervene.
Beginning around the tween years, peer pressure begins to kick in. Your child’s desires to fit in may lead them to do things that their so-called friends cajole them into. Knowing your child’s friends can keep you on the lookout for this type of behavior and help you talk to your child about peer pressure.
To summarize, the steps you can take towards knowing that your child’s friends are a good influence are:
- Target who you want your child to befriend
- Know their parents
- Visit with their parents
- Observe your child with their friends in supervised play
- Ask your child questions and answer their questions
- Build your child’s self-esteem and they won’t seek it from others
- Set clear expectations for your child
- Let them see your moral code in action
- When something feels wrong, it probably is – act on your child’s behalf
Outside of the home, nothing influences your child more than the interactions with their friends. During the school year, they spend as much waking time with their friends each day as they do at home, so it is important to know who they’re hanging out with. By intentionally guiding your child through the development of their friendships, you set them up for success in the development of their adult relationships.
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Application Question – Am I involved enough in my child’s interactions with their friends?