Friendships can open your child’s world to new experiences and fun. But what happens if you notice your child is being hurt? While all relationships come with problems, some are abusively unhealthy. Rebecca Sauer, program manager for the Catholic Charities counseling program offers three tips to to help your child choose healthy relationships.
Spot Your Child's Toxic Friendships
1. Discuss Healthy Relationships
A good place to start teaching your child about healthy relationships is to model healthy friendships in your own life. You can make statements like, “I like this friend, because they are kind to me by helping me on tough days.” Ask your child to talk about his or her friends, so you can hear how they are interacting.
2. Changes in Behavior
While all friendships will influence your child, these are symptoms that should cause concern. If your child loses confidence or starts criticizing his or herself—take time to find out why. If your child changes their personal beliefs or starts lying, stealing, being mean to siblings, being rude or disrespectful—let your child know immediately that these behaviors are unacceptable and not allowed. Ask your child why he or she decided to do these behaviors. This may give you an indication if a relationship is an influencing factor.
3. Friends at Home
Have your child and his or her friends come to play in your house or backyard, so that you can observe how they are playing together. This is an opportunity to see if any unhealthy behaviors are happening, but also how your child does with peers. This allows you an opportunity to correct or to give positive feedback on good behaviors, such as, “Great job in asking Napoleon if he wanted a glass of water.”
So what happens if you observe your child is in a toxic relationship?
Sauer suggests taking a moment to sit down with your child and tell them your concerns. “Open a discussion with your child about what you see,” says Sauer. “Ask for input from them. They may have the same concerns, but may not know what to do about it.”
Other steps include:
With your child, identify those friends that are healthy for them to be around and then redirect their playtime to those friends. It is okay to limit your young child’s exposure to toxic relationships.
As they get into teen years, it can become harder to do that but you still have the ability to limit their outside activities. Make sure they know why you have concerns, and how you see it affecting their lives. Be open to feedback from them and keep an open mind.
If you start early and involve your child in these conversations, they will be open to your input and realize you have their best interests at heart as they become teenagers.
If you need more coaching or support in parenting, our counselors are available for an appointment at 602-749-4405. Our low rates are based on your ability to pay at our convenient offices located throughout the Valley.