It’s a simple truth: Friends influence our behavior. It’s true for you - and it’s true for your teen. So it only makes sense for parents to worry about their teens’ social circle.
Who’s shaping your teen? Is it a good crowd or a “not so good” crowd? If they’re running around with bad influences, things could go south quickly. That’s why it’s important to stay alert for signs of drug or alcohol use in the group.
The Company You Keep...
As a parent, keep your eyes open for any of the following red flags:
- Smells like teen spirits: Does your teen smell like alcohol when he comes home from a sleepover? After a party, does he reek of a strange aroma? Don’t dismiss these odors. Even if he isn’t the one using, it’s pretty clear that he was with someone who was.
- That’s not dust: Find something suspicious in your teen’s car? Coming across marijuana residue or other forms of drug paraphernalia after he’s been out with friends is a pretty sure sign he’s been with the wrong crowd.
- Common denominator: Has your teen gotten into trouble more than once? Did any of them involve substances? If you notice that his trouble involves the same group of “friends” each time, you can safely narrow down the negative-influence suspects.
- Heard it through the grapevine: While gossip is usually a negative thing, it can be helpful in this instance. Have you heard anything about the kids your teen is hanging out with? From parents? Teachers? Other kids? What can you learn about them on social media? If all the news is bad, they’re probably bad news.
- Invisible friends: No, these aren’t the imaginary friends he had when he was four. If your kid is now fourteen, and you see his friends as often as you saw his imaginary pals, there’s a problem. If he’s hiding his friends, there’s probably a reason. He knows you wouldn’t approve. They aren’t the type of friends you bring home to meet mom and dad.
- Invisible parents: Have you met the parents of your teen’s friends? Are they around to supervise when your teen is at their house? When teens are allowed free reign, the lack of supervision can lead to dangerous activities.
- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Have you noticed sudden changes in your teen? We know teens go through phases, but, if he suddenly shifts his entire social circle, or his personality changes, this could be a bad sign. Watch for sudden drops in school performance and negative changes in mannerisms.
- Suspicious schedule: Is your teen keeping odd hours? A lot of teens want to sleep ‘till noon, but that’s not the kind of “odd hours” we’re not talking about. For example, if he’s getting calls at strange hours, sneaking out or staying out past curfew, he may be doing so to engage in drug or alcohol use.
- Older, not wiser: How old are your teenager’s friends? Are they the same age as him? If they’re much older, be careful. Older kids are into older-kid stuff. If the age gap is large, you have to wonder why these “friends” aren’t hanging out with people their own age.
If you notice any of these warning signs, step in right away. Don’t assume it’s a phase. Get involved and find out what’s going on. If you’re worried about their friend influence, counter it with your parental influence.
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