The Ups and Downs of Friendships: When Parents Don’t Like Their Child's Friends (page 2)

By — NYU Child Study Center
Updated on Jul 9, 2010

When you're concerned about your child's friendships

Allowing an objectionable friendship to run its course will often work better than trying to stop it. Many of the friendships parents worry about turn out to be short-lived. Often a teen will discover that a friend he admired at first wasn't so terrific after they got to know each other better.

If you have concerns about a friend, express them openly and listen to your child's point of view. Don't criticize friends directly; but discuss specific behaviors. For example, "It seems that every time XX is over, the rules about using the computer are broken." Forbidding contact seldom works and can reinforce the friendship; however, limiting the opportunities for contacts can be effective. If you are concerned about a particular friend, think about the need that the friendship seems to fill. Ask your child what he likes about the friend, and talk about the qualities that make a good friend.

If you dislike your child's friend, ask yourself some questions as to the possible reason: Do I dislike the child or his appearance? Is the child from another social, ethnic or religious background? Do I allow my child's opinions to differ from my own?

Teach assertiveness and role-play different ways of saying no

Because it's easier for a teen to go along with the group if she feels unsure of herself, bolster her self-confidence by teaching her to make her own decisions. For example, discuss some hypothetical choices about fitting in with the crowd and a) breaking the rules about driving or b) saying no or finding another way to have fun with friends. The following steps can be helpful in practicing decision making skills:

  • Identify what needs to be decided
  • Gather the information necessary including possible solutions or alternatives
  • List the possible courses of action
  • Think aloud about the consequences of poor choices: disappointing parents, getting grounded, being in a car crash, unwanted sex, getting involved with the law. Each individual must realize that the choice is theirs—not their peers.
  • Review and reinforce the concept that she can make her own choices, that she has the courage to refuse to go along with the crowd when their behavior conflicts with her values.

Be aware of warning signs of trouble

Parents have to distinguish between experimentation and danger. When potentially dangerous situations are involved, such as when the child aligns himself only with others who are belligerent or who engage in antisocial or delinquent acts, parents have a responsibility to discourage the association. When behavior is dangerous it must be stopped.

Be aware of the warning signs that indicate that consultation with a mental health professional may be helpful, such as: extreme weight change; sleep problems, drastic personality change, skipping school, poor academics, talk of suicide, signs of substance use, run-ins with the law.

About the NYU Child Study Center

The New York University Child Study Center is dedicated to increasing the awareness of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders and improving the research necessary to advance the prevention, identification, and treatment of these disorders on a national scale. The Center offers expert psychiatric services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families with emphasis on early diagnosis and intervention. The Center's mission is to bridge the gap between science and practice, integrating the finest research with patient care and state-of-the-art training utilizing the resources of the New York University School of Medicine. The Child Study Center was founded in 1997 and established as the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry within the NYU School of Medicine in 2006. For more information, please call us at (212) 263-6622 or visit us at

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