WT 161: Friends are Friends Forever...Or Are They?
Is it okay that my 7 year old prefers to spend time with our family over other kids? How can I teach my son to be a good friend at school? How do I handle “tricky” friends - ones who look good on paper but who are secretly doing all the things I don’t want my teenage son involved in?
On today’s show we’re tackling questions about your kids and their peer relationships. Tune in to hear this far-ranging discussion and stay tuned until the end for the verse Karen wants us to meditate on as we relinquish control over this arena of our children’s lives.
Question 1: I need to know all the things about friendship in the teen years! Man, this is by far the hardest phase for me! Give me a screaming 3 yr old in Target any day over a teenager!
Seriously though, How best to handle “tricky” friends-those friends that look good on paper (honor roll student, in the church youth group, polite to adults), but are secretly vaping, cussing, and sexting (I’m specifically asking more about teen boys).
My son has friends that I just found out are doing these things, so I don’t want him hanging around these friends, but these kids have been friends for 10+ years, and there is a lot of good history there too. It feels like all teenage boys are just not great influences for anyone-my son included, as they all say the strangest (grossest) stuff to each other when they think nobody is listening! My son has started following along (lucky we caught him early, so it was more minor stuff, but if we hadn’t I know he would have tried more serious stuff), and has made some very poor choices, so his life was “shut down” for a long time.
We are now slowly letting him gain privileges back, and he is just now starting to see some friends again. It is so hard to figure how to handle this, as not every social outing can be at our house so I can keep an eye on him. PS- he has no phone, video game chatting, or a computer anymore. So the only way he can make plans is in person, so his social activities are very limited at the moment-and I’m fine with that!
Karen’s Answer: It sounds like you are doing all that you can do. Keep in mind, boys do say the strangest and grossest stuff known to mankind, especially at this age, so you need to let that stuff slide. I would focus on what you might have more of a influence over. My rule of thumb of when I would step in is if Taylor would start saying that things in front of other people other than his peers or in mixed company. I know it’s hard especially when the friendships are 10+ years in the making. But, even with the long friendships, they can be destructive to your child. My suggestion is during the time that your son is grounded and has lost a lot of privileges explain to your son the “why” behind the no and that his choices will have consequences and if he continued to make poor choices in life, then his life will continued to be shut down.
Question 2: What is your opinion on Christian friends vs. Non Christian friends? Did you have limits on how much they could hang out with non christian friends?
Karen’s Answer: Sometimes non Christian friends were worse than the Christian friends, so keep that in mind. I preferred Christian friends, if they had good choices, but what determined any of my kids friends, was their friends behaviors and choices. Personally, I never limited my children’s friendships based on their spiritual walk. I did however, have conversations with my children about these friendships. It usually opened up good conversations. Abby one time had a friend who was not a Christian and she lied to Abby all the time. I told Abby, she doesn’t feel bad when she lies because she doesn’t have Jesus in her heart.
Question 3: My daughter talks to lots of kids and gets along with everyone but doesn’t really have close friends. She doesn’t have that friend she wants to do play dates with or whatever. She is almost 7 years old. She loves her brothers and seems content just hanging out with our family. Do I need to worry about this? Thoughts?
Karen’s Answer: I would not worry about that at all, and I would thank God above that she is so devoted to her own family. The close friendships will probably come later, but until then, enjoy!
Question 4: How do we as parents navigate our kids not making the best choices when it comes to friends? My 8 yr old son has a friend that is constantly getting in trouble at school and there have been a few instances where my son was involved. Thankfully his teacher is well aware of what is going on but I'm afraid as they get older it will escalate and may not be shown the same grace his current teacher is showing.
Karen’s Answer: Keep doing what you are doing, and if the teacher isn’t aware in the future, it is okay to make her more aware by telling her certain friends are not great influences on your son. I’ve done that before and told the teacher she has my full permission to punish or call out bad behavior on my child’s part. I would point out to your son that when he is with this boy he changes who he is and what he believes to be true. I would strongly suggest to him, that his choices have consequences and if he continues to choose unwisely, he will be getting into more trouble at home and at school. Ask him if that is what he wants. Ultimately your son needs to learn how to say no on his own.
Question 5: My son who is 6 sometimes has a hard time making friends in school. He tells me often he doesn’t have friends and he doesn’t want to go to school. After talking with his teacher, it seems like he bounces around the class from kid to kid but he just isn’t making that good connection with anyone. Any suggestions for helping him connect better?
Karen’s Answer: Taylor was like this a little bit. I think sometimes you have to teach a child how to “be” a good friend, and in time they will learn it. Since he is 6 I wouldn’t stress about it just yet. Give him some time to figure it all out. Coach him along the way.
Question 6: How do you handle it when kids are friends but the parents are not (and won’t be) and when the parents are friends but the kids are not?
Karen’s Answer: It’s okay, and it is a natural progression as your children get older. You are not always going to be best buddies with the parents of your child’s friends. I think it helps us moms realize that even though I am the mom I am a separate person from my child and vice versa. That is healthy. It’s nice when it all works out and everyone is friends, but that is a rare thing.
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