Like many Circle of Moms members, Wendy G. wishes she could whole-heartedly accept and like all of her teen daughter’s friends. Instead, she wants to know why so many adolescents make poor friend decisions — and what she’s supposed to do when she doesn’t like her daughter's choices.
Her teen repeatedly finds herself in friendships with girls who are "verbally abusive" and yet "still wants to be friends with them,” laments Wendy. “I don’t understand that, but I feel there’s not much I can do. How do you know when it’s time to cut the ties and let your daughter duke out her own issues with friends?”
She’s not alone. Many Circle of Moms members say they are stressed out about their teen’s friends. Like Wendy , many have reached the end of their ropes and are looking for ways to cope and ease the pain (for their teens and themselves) when adolescents insist on hanging out with toxic friends. Here, moms share some tried-and-true tactics for coping when you don’t like your teen’s friends.
1. Set Limits
When parents feel that their children’s friends are engaging in behavior that isn’t in line with your values, they should set limits on how much time can be spent with those kids, say moms like Tricia G. “My kids lived through this and I did as a girl as well,” she offers. “My mother did the best thing she possibly could have. She tried to set some limits on how much time I spent with my ‘best friend” She sat us both time and said if the problem continued, the friendship would not."
Ultimately those time limits gave her much neeed space: "That separation helped me find out that I had some other great friends just waiting in the wings.”
2. Have the Bully Talk
Explain what makes for good friendships and what makes for a good (and not-so-good) friend, say moms like Shelly B. who’s had the bully and mean girl conversation with her teens. “Talk to your teens and let them know what it means to be a friend,” she says. “Try to use specific examples, maybe the friends of their older brothers or sisters, or a cousin, where you can show specific examples of what a good and bad friend is.”
3. Enlist the School's Help
Sometimes the best way to handle the situation when your kids are chasing friends you don’t approve for is to reach outside the family and get help or advice from experts, say moms like Tracy D. “If you feel that your child has talked to her ‘best friend’ about treating her and her other friends respectfully, but the ‘best friend’ is still manipulating her, you can try calling the school counselor,” she says. “The counselor can work with your child (and the counselor can ask permission of the other girl's parents to work with their daughter, the ‘best friend.’) “
4. Validate Your Child’s Feelings
Instead of criticizing your child’s friend, which will drive your teen away very fast, take another tactic and be the person who is there to listen when the inevitable happens and your child comes running to you when they got hurt, says Dee M. “I make sure I am here to validate the feelings and my child find the ‘truths’ of the hurtful words said to her,” she says. “I then encouraged her to take control of herself.”
5. Let Time Heal The Wounds
Teens are fickle and feed into the drama, says Carlie M. One day the friend is the best friend, the next she is crying from the hurt, she says. “Sometimes you have to deal with it afterwards,” she says. “Inform her that you can help her figure out what to do the next time. Don’t try to solve it for her, but let her deal with it and heal and then try to guide her the next time around. Your heart will break for her too. But hug her and say something like: ‘Oh honey, I'm sorry this has happened to you. You must feel really sad (and that's the emotion they feel).”
6. Allow Your Teen to Live and Learn
It sounds harsh, but parents need to realize that they can’t pick their teen's friends. Suzanne P. knows firsthand that as much as you want to step in to rescue your tween or teen from the "mean girls," ultimately you have to let your kids learn their lessons on their own. “It’s the lesson of not letting people walk all over you. My son went through it, now he says he isn't taken crap from anyone.”
Regina D. agrees. “Honestly I think it is just a something they have to learn,” she says. “I do talk to my daughter all the time, but sometimes they have to learn on their own. I would always give her advice and she would still go back to those friends who treated her like crap and she is finally realizing that they are not true friends at all. There has been a lot of hurt and tears but in the end they do make the right decision.”
7. Be Available
In the end, teens will or won’t learn the lessons themselves, but nudging them to deal with bad friends on their own will provide them with the opportunity to make better choices. So remember to “just be there for them,” urges Regina D. “I wish my daughter knew how to stand up for herself, but sometimes you can talk until you are blue in the face. When she gets hurt, you just need to be there."
How do you handle your child's friends you don't like?
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