What to Do When You Are Not Sure You Approve of Your Kids' Friends

There is an old saying: “Bigger kids, bigger problems.” And if you are the parent of a teenager,
you might already know exactly why. Adolescence is the time when our little ones spread their
wings and start prioritizing new relationships with or without their parent’s approval. (Told you:
bigger problems!)

Gone are the good old days when we could choose our kids’ friends by bribing them with candy
or setting up playdates with families we liked. Ah, simpler times. But now, our teenage darlings
have minds of their own, and it’s safe to say that navigating friendships has become a tad
more challenging.

As parents, we often find ourselves maneuvering through the complex web of our children’s social lives,
and lately, you might be feeling uncertain about their choice of friends. Whether they’re
mingling with older peers or associating with other kids who appear to be a bad influence, it’s
crucial to approach this situation with understanding, open communication, and a balanced

Yes, I know…if only we had the power to swipe right or left on our kids’ friends, right? A ‘Teen
Friend Approval App’ would be a dream come true. But until technology catches up with our
parenting anxieties, let’s explore some practical strategies for parenting teens and dealing with friendship issues.

Observe and reflect: Before jumping to conclusions, take the time to observe your teen’s
interactions with their friends. Attend their gatherings, offer to drive them to group outings, or
engage in casual conversations. Ask yourself what the nature of the relationship is and what
your kid might be looking for by being part of it. Is your kid needing attention, acceptance,
understanding, or a sense of belonging? By doing so, you gain a deeper understanding of the
dynamics at play and can better evaluate the impact these friendships have on your child’s
behavior and well-being.

Engage in open dialogue: Maintaining open lines of communication with your teenager is vital.
Create an environment where they feel comfortable discussing their friendships and
experiences. By actively listening and showing interest without judgment, you establish a
foundation of trust, making your teen more receptive to your concerns. And hey, who knows,
you might even learn some new teenage slang along the way!

Validate their choices: It’s essential to acknowledge that your teen has their own unique
perspective and autonomy when it comes to choosing friends. Even if you have reservations
about certain individuals, and as long as they are not in imminent danger, try to understand the
positive qualities or shared interests that may attract your teen to these friendships. Validating
their choices fosters a sense of respect and empowers them to engage in constructive
conversations about their social circle.

Share your concerns: Once you have gathered sufficient information and fostered a trusting
environment, express your concerns to your teenager. Approach the conversation with
empathy and avoid accusatory language. Instead, focus on the specific behaviors or situations
that trouble you. For instance, you might say, “I noticed that when you’re around this friend,
you engage in X behaviors. Can we talk about how that makes you feel?”

Collaborate on problem-solving: Encourage your teen to be part of the solution by
brainstorming strategies. Discuss potential alternatives for socializing or suggest exploring new
extracurricular activities, community service, or clubs where they can meet like-minded peers
who share their passions and aspirations. Encouraging your teen to engage in various social
circles can broaden their horizons and expose them to different perspectives. By involving them
in the decision-making process, they feel more in control and empowered to make positive

Offer guidance and support: As parents, we can provide direction by being honest when
sharing our own experiences and offering advice when appropriate. Instead of demanding they
sever ties with certain friends, guide them toward making informed decisions. Teach them to
assess the impact of their friendships on their well-being, values, and long-term goals. Help
them recognize red flags in relationships and cultivate critical thinking skills.

Maintain boundaries and set expectations: While supporting your teen, it’s crucial to establish
clear boundaries and expectations while remembering that they also deserve respect and
understanding, or they will resent you more. Emphasize that it’s okay to distance oneself from
toxic or negative influences, stressing that true friends support personal growth and well-being.

Monitor and adapt: Keep a close eye on the situation without being overly intrusive. Monitor
your teen’s activities, online interactions, and changes in behavior. Stay attuned to any signs of
distress. Remember that friendships can evolve, and your teen’s social circle may change as
they mature and develop a stronger sense of self.

Seek guidance: In situations where your concerns persist or escalate, seek professional
guidance. A therapist specializing in family dynamics and adolescents can provide an objective
perspective and help facilitate productive conversations between you and your teen. They can
also guide you in developing strategies to address any underlying issues contributing to your
teen’s choice of friends.

Navigating parental concerns about your teen friends requires a delicate balance of
understanding, open communication, and trust. Remember, your role as a parent is to provide
support, helping your teen foster productive social relationships as they grow into independent
individuals. Just think of it as their trusty sidekick, equipped with parental superpowers like the
ability to detect bad influences and offer epic life advice. Together, with mutual respect (and
let’s be honest — a LOT of patience), you can conquer the challenges of friendship.

Welcome to Family Reset, a monthly column and must-go destination for all parents seeking guidance (and grasping for some sanity) in the wild adventure of raising children. Behind this compelling and candid read is New York licensed psychotherapist, writer, editor, and “mommyyy” Zuania Capó, (or just call her Z), a compassionate, multicultural, and integrative therapist passionate about supporting families to thrive and connect. Armed with a touch of wisdom, insightful tips, a witty spirit, tons of honesty, and a sprinkle of humor, she is here to help you navigate the complexities of parenthood while prioritizing your well-being.

Family Reset is not just a source of advice; it’s a vibrant community where parents can find inspiration, share their stories, and realize they are not alone in the exhilarating roller coaster ride of parenting. Have questions? Want answers? Get ready to hit that reset button and connect with Z at [email protected].

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