If a child is in a toxic friendship, it can change how they feel about themselves. For example, a child might become distant, more reserved, or hide their talents because the friendship is hurting their confidence and self-esteem. A toxic friendship can also impact their academics and thoughts and feelings toward school. Especially private school students can begin to feel trapped by their friends. It can be difficult for children to see they are in a friendship that’s hurting them, so Cheryl Brodnax, a Licensed Professional Counselor, provides some signs parents should look for and tips that can help.
What Are The Signs of a Toxic Friendship?
“Obvious signs would include their child rarely making positive comments about the friendship, such as the person was mean or they are consistently feeling left out, put down, taken advantage of, or always made to feel wrong,” says Brodnax.
“Less obvious signs would be if your child, more often than not, feels down after spending time with their friend. Hangouts should be fun and encouraging; however, it’s a red flag if your child feels worse about themselves for having spent time with them.”
What Are The Steps a Parent Should Take To Help?
“It’s easier to manage this with younger kids because you have more control over who they play with,” says Brodnax. “Older kids are trickier because they will resist parents controlling their friend groups.”
“The best first move is to be a good listener and ask questions that will help them think for themselves whether they are in a healthy relationship. Many youths will stay in a toxic friendship or friend group for fear of being alone.”
“Empathy is very helpful because your child is in a legitimate conflict and they need emotional support. Parents should walk alongside their child to help them see their self-worth and ability to make friendships with people who will treat them as they deserve. Instilling confidence and healthy self-esteem into your child will help give them the courage to leave a toxic relationship.”
It’s important for children to feel safe and comfortable enough to share their school-related problems with their parents. This can be especially difficult for older children to share their troubles. If a parent is worried their child is in a toxic friendship, yet their child isn’t sharing information about it, consider reaching out to the school counselor to gain more insight into their social life.