We can all agree that having good friends improves our quality of life. Friends can serve as a support system, a shoulder to cry on, someone you can laugh with, a role model and so much more. When it comes to your kids, of course, you want them to find these types of valuable relationships. Healthy friendships have proven to improve one’s social competence, selflessness, self-esteem and self-confidence. However, toxic friendships can have almost the opposite effect. It is important that you teach your child the traits of toxic and healthy friendships so that they can better identify the types of relationships they are building. Developing positive friendships early on will help your child understand not to tolerate the unhealthy, toxic ones.
When your child is young, it is difficult for them to understand the complexity of friendship. Friends are usually just the kids they play with on the weekend or see on the playground during school. But as they get older, they begin to see more clearly the role friendships play in their lives. They begin to turn to friends for more serious matters and it becomes necessary that these relationships are positive and uplifting. A positive friendship is one founded on mutual respect and support for one another. As you’ve probably heard before and experienced yourself, friendships are a two-way street and without effort from both sides, they can become toxic and hurtful.
In a positive friendship, both friends are genuinely happy for the successes of the other. They encourage each other to go out of their comfort zone and reach their full potential in everything that they do. They do not get jealous or possessive when they have other friends because they prioritize each others’ happiness. Your child should feel comfortable opening up to their friend and should make their friend feel comfortable opening up, as well. This can start by always being honest about how they are feeling and how their friend’s behavior and actions make them feel. Initiating open, honest communication in your own home will set an example for how your child should speak with their friends. I encourage you to talk with your child about what it means to be a good friend and how these friendships should be adding value to their life.
I’m sure you can think of a time when you were involved in a toxic friendship. Maybe it took you a while to realize that the relationship was unhealthy or maybe you felt like you didn’t have anyone else to turn to. Regardless, these types of friendships likely had you feeling upset and possibly affected your self-esteem. By talking with your child about the warning signs and effects of toxic friendships, they can learn to check themselves if they are being a toxic friend as well as realize when a friend is being toxic toward them.
Toxic relationships can be difficult to identify without positive relationships to compare them to. Some traits of a toxic friendship are more obvious than others so your child must be aware of all potential scenarios. If your child is involved in a toxic friendship, they may feel uncomfortable opening up to their friend for fear of judgment or teasing. They probably feel anxious hanging around them because of the way they have been treated. It usually feels like one friend has all of the power, always choosing what activities they do or who they hang around with. Over time, this creates a lack of trust between the two, passive-aggressive behavior towards each other and unfriendly taunting.
The controlling behavior of a toxic friend could ultimately cause your child to lose their other friends. They will begin to feel lonely and insecure, feeling like they have no other friends to turn to. This type of negative experience could cause them to have trust issues when it comes to making friends and interfere with their future friendships. They need to understand that a genuine “friend” would not be treating them this way. They should feel empowered, happy and comfortable being themselves around their friends not suppressed and victimized.
As your child continues to make friends at school, online or around the neighborhood, you must be aware of how these friendships are affecting them. If your child is on social media, they are likely interacting with these friends online throughout the day. Toxic friendships often mimic the characteristics of bullying and can become evident in the comments left on your child’s posts or the private messages sent to them.
Cyber Dive’s monitoring tools make your involvement easy and allows you to consistently check on your child. The data provided keep you informed about the relationships your child is building online. You can see all of the accounts your child actively interacts with and the types of interactions they are having. If there are friends you aren’t familiar with, you can talk with your child about the dangers of interacting with strangers online. You can keep an eye out for any toxic online interactions your child is having or any online activity that was analyzed as potentially concerning.
With this information, you can confidently initiate conversations with your child about the types of relationships they have. You can better determine how these friendships are affecting your child’s mental health and offer them support when needed. With your guidance, your child can continue to learn from their own experiences and figure out how they can better seek out positive friendships. Kids follow by example so I encourage you to watch how you speak about your “friends” and show them how to successfully nurture positive friendships. If your child is surrounded by people who support them and are positively impacting their daily lives, they will be equipped to become the best version of themselves.