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Dear Stavroula

My Daughter’s Behavior Changed Because of Her Friend

October 24, 2021

Dear Stavroula,

I am a mother of four children, the oldest of whom is 29 years old. My problem is that my daughter, our youngest child who is almost 16, has changed her behavior in the last year.

For a year now, she has been hanging out with a non-Greek girl from a divorced family whose mother is in her own world and lets her daughter do whatever she wants. I do not know why my daughter is so attached to her, but she refuses to talk about it every time I try to bring up the subject. This girl dresses very provocatively, stays out until late at night, smokes, and goes out constantly with different boys. I believe that she is a bad influence on our daughter. We have forbidden her to go out with her and she accepted it after a big fuss but I am not sure if she is telling us the truth or if she is meeting her secretly. I’m afraid she will get involved in other things. I do not know how to handle it anymore and I would like your opinion.

Panagiota

Dear Panagiota,

It is true that in adolescence the parent takes second place, while friends become very important in the life of the teenager. Friends are now the ones teenagers trust, the ones with whom they share their secrets, the ones to whom they dedicate most of their free time.

The parent knows that teenagers tend to imitate their friends’ behaviors and is often afraid that their child will be influenced and changed. In fact, every time the parent tries to convince his child that the company he keeps is not right, he may be confronted with an angry teenager who does not allow a discussion about his friend. That is when the parent feels completely helpless and weak. And this feeling can lead the parent to behaviors that may have the opposite effect of what he wants, further alienating his child.

For this reason, it is very important to show confidence in his child. The young person in adolescence struggles to find his identity and become independent of his family. He needs to join groups of peers and through them to gain better self-awareness. Every time a parent blames their child’s friends, it’s as if he or she is questioning their child’s ability to judge and make the right choices. That hurts and can lead to even more aggressive and negative behaviors, often as a reaction.

Something similar can apply in your case.

However, if your child’s behavior has changed significantly, or if you have reason to believe that your child is at risk of harm to health or physical integrity, talk to a specialist right away. He will then guide you on what else to do.

In any other case, it is very important to talk to your daughter without criticizing her friend. Ask her what makes her girlfriend special to her, how she feels about her and how she imagines this friendship in the future. Tell her about your teenage friends, how important they were to you, about the experiences you shared. Ask her if there is anything in her friend’s behavior that is bothering or hurting her and how she is coping.

In this context you will be able to express your own opinion even if it is negative and explain to your daughter what worries you and what you are afraid of, without canceling your child as a personality. Avoid talking negatively about the friend and choose to criticize the behavior. It is good for the child to know how the parent thinks about the behavior of his friends, and will appreciate it when the parent says “although I think this way, I trust you; you know best which friend and which behavior suits you.”

It is also very important to understand why your child has chosen a friendship that you may not approve of and what prompted her to make this choice, what is it that she things she can gain through such a friendship. By understanding her choices, you may better understand what she is missing and looking for outside the family. In fact, many times friends can fill in personality gaps, for example a shy child can be attracted to friends who take risks or who are more sociable.

Methods such as forbidding them to see their friends do not seem to work for teens. Even though they may say at some point that they agree with their parents, they might continue to meet the friend that their parents forbid them to see.

Although a friendship may violate our standards, it does not mean that it will affect the child’s behavior in the future. What will ultimately count is the education she has received, the values and principles with which she has grown up.

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