With Toxic Friends, Who Needs Enemies?
We all know that friends are one of life’s great joys, but what you may not know is how important cultivating such relationships are to children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, developing friendships is one of the most essential skills learned from ages 5 through 12. Children between these ages are learning social skills that will become the foundation for all future relationships, which is why it’s important that their friends are positive influences on their lives.
Recognizing A Toxic Friend
“Toxic friends are not really friends at all,” says Melissa Bozesky, MA, licensed professional counselor and parent education specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Even though no relationship is completely equal all the time, real friendships have an element of give and take. With a toxic friendship, someone usually ends up being hurt emotionally.”
Be on the lookout for the following four types of toxic friends:
The judge. Through always criticizing your child’s appearance or abilities, this friend slowly wears away at your child’s self-confidence.
The user. This is the friend who wants to copy your daughter’s homework, lets her take the blame for a prank she wasn’t involved in or spends her money.
The leaner. This friend is always talking about himself and his problems—without allowing your child to share what’s happening in his life. Being around such a needy person constantly can be emotionally draining for your child.
The controller. This friend insists on making all the decisions in the relationship or forbids your child from spending time with other friends.
While any friend can occasionally be selfish or hurtful, a toxic friend is one whose behavior is consistently characterized by negative qualities such as the ones mentioned here.
“When faced with a toxic friend, often the parents’ first instinct is to forbid their child from interacting with the other child,” says Lisa Hueckel, parent education specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “But this approach usually backfires, making the toxic friend seem more appealing. While difficult, parents need to step back and allow their child to develop the skills they need to form constructive friendships.”
Consider taking these approaches:
Cultivate communication. Initiate conversations about your child’s friend based on what your child has told you.
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