Remember your child's first birthday party invitation? Or their first sleepover invite? It was exciting to see them go off to play with their friends, wasn't it? As the years went on, the invites probably changed. Maybe your child was getting more, maybe he was getting less. Usually around 4th grade, the invites start coming from the same person or group of people. The question I get from parents is, "What happens when we don't like the group he's hanging around with?" This question will inevitably come up in some form with children, so here are my Do's and Don'ts:
Get your child involved. Ask him/her to write down a list of qualities they think are important in a friend and ask them to look at their friendships to determine if the friends have those qualities.
Sit down with them and discuss ways to end friendships that aren't right. Show them how to get someone out of their lives without causing trauma to other friendships or their social life going forward.
Don't tell them you don't approve of this person and that they're not allowed to see them. As much as you may actually believe this, unless there are serious issues (e.g. drugs, alcohol, stealing, etc.), your child will be more likely to try to sneak out to see this person if you forbid it. This does depend on age, too, but helping your child see what your inhibitions are vs. telling them they're not allowed teaches them lessons for the long-term, helps them come to the decision on their own and helps them choose the right friends going forward.
Don't assume your child is doing everything the friend you're worried about is. Maybe this friend is mean to others on the playground or in the hallway, but also loves Minecraft or Harry Potter movies like your child. There's a chance your son or daughter is hanging out with them for the mutual enjoyment of Harry Potter or video games. They may be just as turned off by the way this person treats others as you are.
The saying, "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime" applies here. If you are helping your child see good qualities and not so good qualities, aren't they more likely to apply these lessons later in life?
Karen Becker is an author, speaker and personal growth coach. She has a Master's Degree in Counseling and applies these skills when coaching clients. She has years of experience coaching clients in all areas of life: parenting, co-parenting after divorce and in personal growth/wellness. She can be reached at email@example.com.