Toxic friendships are difficult at every stage of life, but they may have no bigger impact than when you’re a teen. Teenage years are complicated as is. Changes are happening with your body, your hormones and mood are all over the place, and you’re figuring more out about who you are and what you like and dislike. Friendships can have a major impact on you during your teen years, and while sometimes friendships are positive, toxic teen friendships are a real thing. Here’s how you can navigate these types of friendships as a parent.
11 Signs of Toxic Teen Friendships
- Your teen and their friend are always gossiping about other friends when they’re hanging out together
- They control your teen’s other friendships and get jealous when your teen hangs out with anyone else
- They’re critical and defensive towards your teen
- They’re always talking about them self and changing the subject back to them
- They take more than they give and always needs something from your teen
- They pressure your teen into doing things they don’t want to do
- They are negative and blame others for their problems
- They are mean to your teen in front of others and then apologize and pretend it was a joke when they’re alone
- They tease or insult your teen regularly
- They encourage dishonesty
- They share things with others your teen told them in confidence
3 Ways to Help Your Teen Spot Toxic Friendships
1. How Do You Feel After You Spend Time with Them?
Ask your teen to pay attention to how they feel after they spend time with their friend. If they feel down, drained, or don’t enjoy their time with them, it’s likely not a healthy friendship. Did their friend criticize them? Did they make negative comments about your teen’s room, the games they played, or the food they ate at your house? If the interactions are mostly negative, it’s likely a toxic friendship.
2. What Are Your Conversations About?
Do their conversations centre around their friend with little to no focus on your teen? Is their friend always talking about themself and bringing the conversation back to them? Or perhaps their conversations are focused on gossip and criticizing other friends and people at school. What the two of them talk about says a lot about what type of friendship it is.
3. How Does Your Friend Treat You in Group Settings?
Toxic friends are often mean in group settings, and may be nicer one-on-one. They make you feel bad or make fun of you in front of others so they seem cool and then play it off as a joke. Whether you’re one-on-one or with others, your friends should never be mean to you. On the contrary, they should be the ones supporting and sticking up for you in negative situations.
How to Deal with Toxic Teen Friendships As a Parent
1. Talk to Your Teen About What Positive Friendships Look Like
Teen friendships can be very complicated and can have a big impact on your child- sometimes positive, other times negative. Try to help them understand the difference between supportive friendships and toxic friendships so they can make the best decision for themselves about who to have in their life.
Let them know good friends are kind, supportive, and trustworthy. They accept them for who they are, encourage them and cheer them on, and don’t try to pressure them into negative situations or make them feel bad about themselves.
2. Have Open Communication with Your Child
If you notice any of the toxic signs we mentioned above, make sure your teen knows there’s open communication between the two of you and that they can come to you no matter what. Ask them questions about their friend and see if they open up to you about any feelings they have towards them. They may not want to discuss it, but if your teen is open to chatting, discuss how best to navigate the friendship in a way your teen feels comfortable.
Be prepared for your teen to want to carry on the friendship. Even if you know it’s not for the best, forbidding them to see their friend can have the reverse effect. Be patient and let your teen know you’re there for them.
3. Encourage Your Teen to Set Boundaries
Although it can be hard, learning how to set and maintain boundaries is an important part of growing up. Let your child know to be careful of anyone who doesn’t seem positive in their choices or behaviours, and to not let these people take up more space in their life than necessary. Perhaps they’d be open to seeing this friend at school and other social occasions with mutual friends, but limit or avoid one-on-one encounters moving forward.
4. Encourage Interactions with Non-Toxic Friends
Suggest your teen get away from the drama by spending time with their positive, non-toxic friends (you don’t need to use these words with your teen). Encourage them to join sports teams or activities they enjoy and invite those friends to join them too. Extracurriculars are also a great way to meet new people and create positive friendships outside of school. Depending on their age, they can also consider getting a job to expand their social circle, or join a volunteer group.
5. Be a Role Model
Model healthy relationships with your friends, partner, family, and colleagues. Your child will learn and observe from this, absorbing respect, empathy, and positive ways of resolving conflict. Also be conscious of any negativity your teen may see. If you and your friends get together and gossip or complain about other people, they’ll start to think it’s okay and normal to do this.
6. Help Your Teen Change the Toxic Friendship
If your teen wants to stay friends with their frenemy, help them find ways they could change the friendship. For example, if their friend is constantly critiquing your teen’s appearance or putting down an activity they love, encourage your child to tell their friend to stop making comments like that. You can try role playing with them so they know what to say to them next time.
Sometimes frenemies will say these things because they get a reaction. Try to figure out with your teen what may work best to change the dynamic, such as being assertive or walking away without a comment.
7. Trust Your Teen
Although it can be tough, try to trust that your teen will figure out who’s best to have in their life. It may take some time, but knowing you’re there to support them is the most important thing. Your teen should know that it’s never okay for friends to act in negative ways towards them or to make them feel low and bad about themself.
If you suspect your teen is in a toxic friendship, use these tips to navigate the situation and help your teen get through it.
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