How to help your child move away from toxic friendships

October 14, 2022

“It’s not my child, it’s those kids he hangs out with!” is the motto of almost all parents. In some cases it reveals some natural bias. Of course you want to see your child as an innocent angel, even if evidence points to the contrary. In other cases, it might really be true. Perhaps your little one, despite all your best efforts, has ended up in a crowd of badly behaved, unruly classmates. 

There are plenty of reasons why this might happen, and plenty of effects it might have on your child, ranging from missed homeworks to bullying. Whatever it is, here are some top tips that you can use to encourage your child away from toxic friendships. You certainly can’t pick your child’s friends, but you can help them avoid those bad apples that exist in all classrooms.

  1. Help your child “see the light”

It is important that your child recognises that this friendship is actually something negative. This might require some effort - we all know how defensive children can be of their so-called friends. So discuss openly what a good friendship should look like, and then, whilst not attacking, explain why the friend’s behaviour is not acceptable. Do not come across as bitter, but do be assertive and honest. Avoid over-repeating this conversation. That will only breed resentment, and you don’t want to alienate your kid. 

  1. Change your child’s schedule

You are going to struggle to stop your little one from chatting to their friend in the classroom. But you do have control over what they do in their free time. Fill it up with fun activities with children of the same age who are kind and caring. Your child will soon associate pleasurable activities with warm, welcoming environments, weakening their emotional connection to their former, toxic friends. 

  1. Ask the school to monitor their interactions

Again, there are limits to how much you can restrict your child’s communication with their toxic friends. Too much control on your part will only cause a defensive reaction on theirs. But you can ask teachers to pay attention to how your child interacts with certain classmates.

This is especially important if you believe your child is being bullied - indeed, a hallmark of a toxic “friendship” is bullying. You could say: “I have a feeling there is a toxic dynamic between those two. Perhaps you could keep an eye on it when they don’t think you’re watching”. It is important that this is done surreptitiously. As any parent knows, children put on a show when they know they are being watched.

  1. Be more attentive to your child’s inner world

We can all be caught up in our children’s external achievements. Whether they’ve won a sports prize, achieved high grades or learnt a musical instrument, we tend to be proud of what we can see. But it is even more important to pay attention to your child’s emotional state. Try to make home a safe space for them to discuss their feelings, and you will find that they grow in confidence when dealing with the outside world. This will make it more likely that they ditch those toxic friends themselves.

How to help your child move away from toxic friendships

October 14, 2022

“It’s not my child, it’s those kids he hangs out with!” is the motto of almost all parents. In some cases it reveals some natural bias. Of course you want to see your child as an innocent angel, even if evidence points to the contrary. In other cases, it might really be true. Perhaps your little one, despite all your best efforts, has ended up in a crowd of badly behaved, unruly classmates. 

There are plenty of reasons why this might happen, and plenty of effects it might have on your child, ranging from missed homeworks to bullying. Whatever it is, here are some top tips that you can use to encourage your child away from toxic friendships. You certainly can’t pick your child’s friends, but you can help them avoid those bad apples that exist in all classrooms.

  1. Help your child “see the light”

It is important that your child recognises that this friendship is actually something negative. This might require some effort - we all know how defensive children can be of their so-called friends. So discuss openly what a good friendship should look like, and then, whilst not attacking, explain why the friend’s behaviour is not acceptable. Do not come across as bitter, but do be assertive and honest. Avoid over-repeating this conversation. That will only breed resentment, and you don’t want to alienate your kid. 

  1. Change your child’s schedule

You are going to struggle to stop your little one from chatting to their friend in the classroom. But you do have control over what they do in their free time. Fill it up with fun activities with children of the same age who are kind and caring. Your child will soon associate pleasurable activities with warm, welcoming environments, weakening their emotional connection to their former, toxic friends. 

  1. Ask the school to monitor their interactions

Again, there are limits to how much you can restrict your child’s communication with their toxic friends. Too much control on your part will only cause a defensive reaction on theirs. But you can ask teachers to pay attention to how your child interacts with certain classmates.

This is especially important if you believe your child is being bullied - indeed, a hallmark of a toxic “friendship” is bullying. You could say: “I have a feeling there is a toxic dynamic between those two. Perhaps you could keep an eye on it when they don’t think you’re watching”. It is important that this is done surreptitiously. As any parent knows, children put on a show when they know they are being watched.

  1. Be more attentive to your child’s inner world

We can all be caught up in our children’s external achievements. Whether they’ve won a sports prize, achieved high grades or learnt a musical instrument, we tend to be proud of what we can see. But it is even more important to pay attention to your child’s emotional state. Try to make home a safe space for them to discuss their feelings, and you will find that they grow in confidence when dealing with the outside world. This will make it more likely that they ditch those toxic friends themselves.

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