Monday, December 6, 2010

How can I guide my teen to make the ‘right’ kind of friends?

By: Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

Do you find your teen has a hard time finding new friends? More importantly, do you think your teen has settled in with the first friends that came along despite the friends’ questionable quality?

Making new friends can be quite nerve-racking for a teen, especially if s/he has low self-esteem and confidence levels. Finding friends with similar values can be even more challenging.

Teens are in the process of figuring out who they are. Fear of judgement is at its highest and confusion about how the world works is a factor too. This is the time for you, the parent, to step in and instil your values on your kids. The question is how do you encourage your teen to find friends who will positively influence him or her?

Parents play an important role in their children’s lives. High expectations for your children are not enough. You need to teach and steer your kids on HOW to pick the ‘right friends.’
Before you read on, think for a minute: If you went to your teen’s room to speak to him or her about making the ‘right’ kind of friends how would you go about this conversation?

Take a moment and think about it...

When guiding you teen, it is not enough to say this is how it is and that’s it. It is not enough to expect him or her to follow adult reasoning because s/he will not (adult reasoning is not always clear to adults either). Instead, sit down with your child and guide him or her through the process of finding the ‘right’ friends.

Tips to help your teen make the ‘right’ friends:

1. Sign your teen up for 1 or 2 extracurricular activities. It can be a sports team, an art class, or dance class. Pick something s/he would enjoy or ask your teen to pick the class s/he would like to participate in. This way you give your teen power to choose what s/he wants to do. The point is your teen cannot make friends if s/he has no place to meet new people.

2. Guide him or her on how to select friends. For example: Teach your teen to carefully choose his or her friends. Direct your teen to ask him or herself what s/he is looking for in NEW friends? Get your teen to write down 5 qualities or characteristics s/he would like the new friends to have.

3. Once your teen has a list prepared, ask him or her how the current friends measure up to these qualities. Ask about each friend, one at a time.

4. Let your teen know this doesn’t mean s/he can’t talk to other people who don’t have these qualities and characteristics. Encourage your teen to be friendly with everyone, BUT his or her closest friends should have most of the qualities they listed above.

5. Encourage your teen to make friends with people who have similar values to him or her (values are those things that are really important to us— e.g., family togetherness, going to university, education, staying healthy by not smoking, drinking and doing drugs, respecting others by not gossiping, etc.

6. If your teen is hoping to form a friendship with someone, ask him or her why s/he wishes to be friends with this particular person or this group of people? Ask him or her if these reasons are compatible to his or her answers to questions 2 and 5.

7. Demonstrate to your teen that friends can and probably will influence his or her behaviour. For example, ask him or her to think about something s/he does with newer set of friends that s/he never did with previous friends (or one group of friends compared to another group). Ask him or her to think of 2 good examples and 2 negative examples.

8. Encourage your teen to think about how s/he wants his or her friends to influence him or her? Ask him or her to think of 5 ways s/he would like to be influenced? Ask him or her how she would not like to be influenced.

Interested in more information? Contact Life Coach Toronto, Ivana Pejakovic and speak to her about your teen.

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