Adolescence is a time of change. Your daughter is testing her boundaries, learning what she can and cannot do, and finding out exactly who she is. However, she may not be doing this alone. As she grows older, she may seek out different friends than those she had when she was younger, and those friends may not always be the best influence. While you trust your daughter and know she can make her own decision, peer influence has the power to dramatically change her decisions, attitude and choices, in both positive and negative ways.
A Drug and Alcohol Review study from 2011 researched the influence different areas of a teen’s life have on whether or not they begin smoking. Areas included community, school, parents, siblings and friends. Researched confirmed that teens living in disadvantaged communities and schools were likely to make an impact on pre-teen and early-teen smoking, but this impact was nowhere near as significant as individual-level influences caused by friends and family.
A 2014 study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, revealed that friends often rely on one another to resist temptations. If one resists eating chocolate, doing drugs or making poor decisions, the other friend will likely choose the same path. However, friends are much more likely to conspire together to indulge in these poor behaviors as well because of their influence on each other.
Has your daughter fallen in with a bad crowd? If you’re worried her group of peers may have a negative impact on her, watch for certain warning signs that let you know it’s time to take action.
Warning Signs of Negative Peer Influence
Some warning signs of unhealthy influences include:
- – Your teen suddenly begins socializing with new individuals and stops spending time with old friends
- – The way she speaks, her tone or her mannerisms change
- – She has been cutting class
- – Her grades drop significantly
- – She begins to act secretive, sullen and withdrawn
- – She begins asking to do things and go places she previously had no interest in
- – Her clothing style or hair color has suddenly changed
While many parents believe, “It’s just a phase,” the truth is that you should always be on the lookout for any dramatic change in your daughter’s life. It may just be a way for her to test who she is, but these symptoms may also be a result of unhealthy influences that can affect her choices in life and future. Erring on the side of caution is always a better option than standing back and waiting for something bad to happen.
What Should You Do?
Your child is at a critical age where she is still seeking validation and is feeling insecure about many of her choices. Whether she admits it or not, your opinion still matters. For this reason, it’s important to address unhealthy peer relationships in the right way. Here’s what to do.
Talk to Her— Without Judgment
Don’t attack her friends or their behaviors. This will only cause her to become defensive. Instead, have a calm conversation about the changes you’ve noticed in her attire, behavior or grades since she began hanging out with the new group of friends. Don’t rush the conversation. Give her time to think through her answers and talk it out. Don’t interrupt and ask questions that demand more than a yes or no response, like “What do you like about this friend?”
Know When to be Aggressive
Forbidding her daughter from seeing these other troubled teens may quickly backfire. Her rebellious teenage brain may find them suddenly more attractive than they really are. Instead, encourage outside interests like a part-time job or special academic classes.
That doesn’t mean you should always be aggressive in your stance, of course. If she has been using drugs, shoplifting or engaging in activities that are illegal, being aggressive and getting her as far away from those friends as possible is important.
Provide her With Unconditional Love
Listen to her, spend time with her, pay attention to her life. Be that safe haven she can turn to. Remind her over and over again how beautiful she is, how important she is, and how loved she is. She may act like it bothers her. She may roll her eyes and sigh. However, she’ll remember your love when it comes to making the right choice.
Know When to Get Help
If the issues continue, and you’re worried for your daughter’s mental health, safety and future, a boarding school like Greenbrier Academy may be the best option for her. While living apart from her will be hard, Greenbrier offers a safe place with positive peer influences and therapies that will help her make the best decisions for her future.