"We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them in mutual weirdness and call it 'friendship'.'' This quote from Dr Seuss beautifully illustrates our inherent need to connect with others who make us feel valued and accepted.
The need for human connection sees many young people getting involved in friendships that are not good for them. The "wrong crowd" friendships are those relationships that do not uphold positive behavioural choices, with kids who are consistently seeking ways in which to harm others or engage in self-destructive activities.
All negative behaviours stem from fears rooted in negative self-beliefs. We cannot control the behavioural choices of others, but we can do something to help our children make better friendship choices.
Consider these helpful hints:
1. BE the person you wish to see in your child
Teach your child about positive friendship choices by having positive friendships in your life. Let go of toxic relationships - it takes courage, but you will give your child the courage to do the same.
Foster communication channels with your child based on trust and non-judgmental support and love. Wouldn't it be wonderful if your imperfect child could feel safe enough to speak of his imperfectness to his imperfect parent, knowing that, together, you will find positive solutions?
3. Help your child develop a strong sense of self-value
This will give them the courage to stand firm in their convictions and be able to say "no" to negative peer pressure. They will not have anything that needs to be proved, because your child will know who they are.
You cannot force a change in friendships, but you can help your child develop a better sense of self.
4. Teach your child about consequences
All choices have consequences, and nobody can escape this.
Teach your child to honour and respect himself, just as you honour and respect yourself. In this way, your child will not have a need to become involved in destructive relationships.
6. Find ways for your child to enjoy activities beyond the school environment
Hiking, dancing, art, music and so many other activities will keep your child from becoming bored and tempted into negative groups. There is, of course, also the added benefit that they will learn new skills and develop confidence.
7. Dream big
Remind your child of the possibilities that lie ahead for them. Having something to work towards is a wonderful way to stay out of trouble despite negative peer pressures.
You cannot force a change in friendships, but you can help your child develop a better sense of self. Children who respect, honour and appreciate who they are, are less likely to seek connection with those who do not mirror their values.