There is nothing more heartbreaking (and frustrating) than watching your child put up with an unhealthy friendship…especially when they can’t see it themselves! As parents, we can sometimes forget that these experiences are what make our children stronger and more resilient. However, it’s still important that we coach and guide them to make healthy choices.
If your child is in a toxic friendship that is affecting their self-esteem and you can see this friendship is bringing out the worst in them, it’s time to give them some support.
Here’s a step-by-step guide, to be completed over the course of a couple of weeks, for coaching your child to ‘see the light’:
Even if you’ve been to a ‘Language of Friendship’ parent-child workshop before, sit down and watch this with them. A few tips for this step:
- Avoid talking directly about their toxic friendship. Your child might get their back up, so simply explain that you wanted to watch this video as a little refresher.
- Make it fun. Pop some popcorn or make a special drink. If you can, cast it onto a big TV or cuddle up in bed and watch it on a laptop. Your child has to view this as a positive experience and this will undoubtedly strengthen your connection with them.
- Pause the video at various times and ask them if they can think of an example in their friendships.
Step 2: Do this activity with your child.
The Friend-o-meter is the easiest way to start talking to your child about healthy and unhealthy friendships. It’s important for them to really crystallize what qualities and attributes they value in a friend. Again, this activity doesn’t point the finger at any one friend, but gets them to think about what matters most. Here are a few tips when you do this activity:
- Bring up behaviors that you’ve noticed in this toxic friendship. You could say, “What if someone is trying to control you? Is that a quality of a healthy friendship or would that go in the unhealthy category?”
- Spend time exploring what RESPECT looks like in a friendship. Ask your child, “How do you know a friend respects you?” Remind them of Friendship Fact #3.
- Be sure to take them for ice-cream after! Positive vibes all around!
We can’t underestimate the power of social boundaries. When a child allows a toxic friendship into their lives, they need to strengthen their boundaries.
TIP: If your child is still feeling a bit resistant, try printing out the handout that accompanies this activity and leaving it on their pillow with a love note. Write something like, “I love you and am always here for you. You deserve healthy, feel-good friendships. I thought this handout seemed interesting!”
Hopefully, once you get to this step your child has started to possibly recognize that they are in an unhealthy friendship. Watch this video with them and do the activities.
If your child is still having a hard time admitting or accepting their friendship is in the red zone of the Friend-o-meter, try to figure out what exactly it is that’s keeping them hooked. Are they afraid of being alone? Are they afraid this friend will sabotage them? What ‘need’ is this friendship filling in your child?