Great friends are hard to find and important to keep. You know this from experience. But it may not be as clear for your teen. High school is a difficult place to find people who will bring value to your teen's life. There is so much emphasis on social groups that it's tough for teens to be themselves, both outside and inside these groups.
Your teen needs to learn to seek out friends who contribute value to his life. These are people who earn his trust and by whom he wants to be trusted. These are the friends that last. They're faithful in tough times, they listen and respect your teen as he respects them. They share interests loftier than group acceptance. In fact, they circumvent the social caste system found in high school to build their own place in the world.
Here are some tips for talking to your teen when low quality friendships begin to create problems.
First, let's talk about the ones he may want to consider dumping:
1. The "it's all about me" friend only considers themselves in every situation and gives no attention to others. While it's true that everyone is selfish at some point, it's important to know who is going to step up in life when your teen needs them. The person who is only focused on themselves will not be there in time of need. Encourage your teen to dump the "all about me" friend.
2. The friend who is negative about everything. This kid will suck the energy right out of your teen with his constant attention on misery. "Life sucks, my friends suck, my parents suck and school is awful." When you talk with your teen about friendships, encourage him to not let himself be pulled into this way of thinking.
It's defeating, not energizing. But, life is actually amazing. And it's also hard. And it's the combination of ups and downs that help us grow and gain confidence, and learn wisdom to make better decisions as we go. Help your teen begin to understand that when life is hard he's truly living:
The problem + the struggle for solutions = the victory. It's all in the rich concoction of living.
A negative person doesn't think this way and will not easily change his outlook. This person is not receptive to learning, only to blaming. Encourage your teen to have the courage to dump "Mr. or Ms. Negative."
3. The user is the friend who uses your teen when it's convenient. When they are the only two people around, he uses him for company and as a sounding board. But let anyone else join the group and suddenly, this kid doesn't know your child at all. Ignores him completely. Then, when your child speaks up to contribute to the conversation, the user shuts it down. He wants your child to be invisible to the group. This individual is typically immature and insecure and his behaviors may be to help himself feel stronger, but he's not offering value to your child's life. There is no room in your teen's life for a user. Encourage him to dump that selfish, controlling kid.
4. The hater is the kid who hates everybody and everything. He believes everyone is out to get him including his parents, his friends and school. His attitude makes it impossible to connect with him and his outlook is contagious. Encourage your teen to think about how much value someone like this brings to his life. How is it helpful to your child to listen to this all the time? Can he really afford such draining influence? Help him have the courage to dump the hater.
5. The mean kid is not a friend to anyone. This kid can be really cruel and downright mean. He gets his affirmation from tormenting others and expects his friends to back him up. He's the stereotypical bully of the worst kind. He is empowered by dictating the lives of others and having a posse to enforce his control. It's important that you teach your kid that this kid is NOT allowed to dictate his life. Help him understand that the mean kid is the one with the issue, and cruel words directed at your son or daughter is not your child's issue, but rather a weakness and fault with that kid. When your teen learns that the mean kid has nothing to offer him, it can save him a lot of distress. Equip your teen to dump mean kids... whether they are mean to your son or daughter, or to someone else.
6. The victim, a.k.a. "poor me" friend is always looking for advice for their problems. Find the opportunity to talk to your teen about friends like this... and demonstrate with stories of your own how to avoid getting sucked into the force field of this type of friend. While it may feel good to your teen to be able to help someone else, it can be destructive to feel his only value is to be a therapist to his peers. Ironically, when your child has a need to talk to someone about his own problems, the victim friend won't have time for him. Your teen isn't a therapist and shouldn't be. He or she needs friends who carry their own weight, share core interests, and enjoy similar activities.
Cultivate conversations with your teenager about friendships. Suggest he or she consider their circle of friends and take note as to whether or not they fit into any of these categories. Help him think about the friends in his life that truly add value to his life and demonstrate character and integrity.
Out of all of all them, he may not find more than one or two who display the qualities he'd like to have in friends. But show him how important it is to his future and personal development to build healthy friendships with healthy people who have the ability to give and receive the things that matter, and brush away those things that don't.
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