In order to help our tweens develop healthy relationships and prepare them for the real world, we must have conversations with them about toxic friendships.
In this article, we will discuss the importance of having conversations with your tween about toxic friendships and provide tips on how to have this important discussion in a way that is supportive and understanding.
Understand your tween’s experience with toxic friendships
It is important to recognise that your tween’s experience of toxic friendships is unique; they have their own history, relationships, and feelings.
Listening to their perspective and validating their emotions is essential in helping them to understand and navigate these difficult dynamics. It is essential to keep an open dialogue and make sure that your tween feels comfortable communicating with you about their feelings and experiences. Be alert for changes in behaviour, attitude, or relationships, which may indicate a need for further conversation.
Show empathy when speaking
When talking to your tween about toxic friendships, it is important to show empathy. This means listening to their concerns and understanding their feelings without judgment. Allow them to express their emotions, and validate their feelings.
It is also important to be honest and open when discussing the situation. Acknowledge what your tween is going through and express that you are there to support them. Showing empathy will foster a strong relationship between you and your tween, and will provide a safe space for them to talk about their experiences.
Encourage positive self-talk
As a parent, it’s important to remind your tween that they are capable and strong. Encouraging positive self-talk is one of the best ways to promote self-confidence and keep your child from succumbing to the influence of their peers.
Remind them that their self-worth does not depend on what other people think about them or how many friends they have. Help them recognise their own unique strengths and encourage them to practice positive affirmations each day.
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Create a safe, non-judgmental space where your child can share their feelings and experiences. When they do open up, it is important to listen without judgement. This is key to helping your tween feel heard and respected.
Try to avoid the temptation to jump to conclusions or offer advice right away. Your job is to provide a listening ear and to make sure they know you are there to support them.
Talk about the importance of healthy relationships
Healthy relationships are the cornerstone of a positive and productive life. They are the foundation on which we build our sense of self-worth, trust, and communication.
For tweens, it is especially important to develop this sense of self-worth and trust, as these will form the basis of all future relationships. This is why it is essential to teach tweens about the importance of healthy relationships and how to identify and avoid toxic ones.
Discuss risk factors of toxic friendships
As parents, it is important to understand the risk factors associated with toxic friendships. Some of the key risk factors of toxic friendships include one-sided conversations where one friend dominates; a lack of trust; a high degree of jealousy; a lack of support; and a lack of communication.
It is also important to note that these issues can often be seen in relationships beyond those of friends. For example, a power imbalance may exist between two siblings or between a parent and child. It is important to recognise these dynamics and address them in a non-judgmental way.
Offer strategies for managing difficult situations
When talking to your tween about toxic friendships, it is important to remain patient and non-judgmental. Remind your tween that it is ok to struggle, and it is ok to ask for help. It is also important to communicate that they are not alone and that they can come to you for support.
Before responding to any difficult situation, take a moment to reflect and think it through. Demonstrate to your tween that it is ok to take a step back and create a plan of action. Encourage your tween to take an active role in managing the situation, taking into consideration how the situation may affect them and their friendships.
Stress the importance of open communication
As your tween grows and navigates their social life, it’s important to stress the importance of open communication.
Encourage your tween to talk to you and other trusted adults about their friendships, both good and bad. Talk to them about what healthy and unhealthy friendships look like and let them know that they can come to you if they need help dealing with a difficult situation.
It’s important to create an environment where your tween feels comfortable sharing their feelings with you, as well as knowing that you’ll be a supportive ally.
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Teach Your Tween These 10 Signs of a Toxic Friendship
It is important to be aware of the signs of toxic friendships so that you can talk to your tween and help them recognise when they are in a friendship that isn’t healthy.
Constant criticism or negativity: A toxic friend will frequently put you down and be overly critical of your actions, thoughts, and feelings.
Lack of respect for boundaries: This person disregards your boundaries and may pressure you into doing things that make you uncomfortable.
Manipulation and control: A toxic friend may try to manipulate or control you by using guilt, threats, or emotional blackmail.
Isolation from other friends: A toxic friend may try to isolate you from your other friends and encourage you to spend all your time with them.
Jealousy and envy: This person may display jealous or envious behaviours and become angry or resentful when you spend time with others.
Unreliability and inconsistency: A toxic friend may frequently cancel plans or be unreliable, leaving you feeling let down or disappointed.
Blaming and shifting responsibility: This person may frequently blame others for their problems and refuse to take responsibility for their actions.
Aggression or violence: A toxic friend may become physically or emotionally aggressive or violent, leaving you feeling scared or threatened.
Sharing secrets or spreading rumours: A toxic friend may share your personal information or spread rumours about you, which can hurt your reputation.
Gaslighting or denying reality: A toxic friend may try to make you question your own perceptions and experiences by denying the reality of what has happened.
Regular, open communication between you and your tween is key in order to help them navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of their social lives. By understanding the dynamics of toxic friendships, your teen will be more likely to find, engage in, and maintain healthy relationships with their peers.
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