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Talking to Your Teen about a Toxic Friend/Partner

The Awkward Dance

by Deborah Cruz

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Welp, it finally happened. The girls have finally “dated” partners that gave me the “ick”. No, it wasn’t anything personal, or even that I could put my finger on. What it was… my mom intuition. We all have it but I’m a bit of a natural bruja and when my mommy senses start tingling, I can’t ignore it.  But how do you talk to your teen when you notice red flags in their partner or bestie? You won’t always love your teens partner but try talking to your teen like an adult instead of at them. 

The girls and I have always had very open, honest, close and transparent relationship and there’s nothing off limits, but I make it a practice not to bash their friends and partners. My girls consider me a friend so I don’t want to switch gears and go all dictator on them. It’s their choice but I’m their mom so I can’t ignore obvious red flags that they may be blind to due to inexperience, the love bubble or an onslaught of love bombing.

Fellow parents in the trenches of parenthood, are you ready to tackle a conversation that can feel trickier than parallel parking after a tequila tasting? I’m referring to talking to your teen about a friend or partner who raises your red flags.

Let’s face it, our teens are navigating the social jungle, and sometimes, they pick up companions who make us want to grab a metaphorical hairbrush and untangle the mess. But before you launch into a full-on “they’re-not-good-enough-for-you” tirade (trust me, been there, done that, resulted in slammed doors and epic eye rolls), let’s pause, take a deep breath, and approach this with the finesse of a seasoned diplomat.

Why the Worries? Buckle Up, Buttercup, Here Comes the Truth:

As parents, we have this built-in radar that goes off when something feels off with our kids. Maybe it’s the way their “friend” manipulates them, constantly needs rescuing, or leaves them feeling drained and down. Or perhaps it’s the partner who exhibits controlling behavior, puts them down, or makes them question their worth. Whatever the reason, our mama and papa bear instincts kick in, and we want to shield our precious offspring from harm.

The Tightrope Walk: Navigating the Conversation Minefield:

Here’s the thing: direct attacks rarely work. Calling someone names or forbidding the relationship altogether might push your teen further away and make them even more defensive. Instead, we need to be strategic ninjas, wielding the power of communication and empathy.

Step 1: Become a Listening Ear, Not a Judgmental Judge:

First, create a safe space for your teen to talk. Let them know you’re concerned, but avoid accusatory language. Phrases like “I’ve noticed you seem different lately” or “I’m curious about this friendship/relationship” can open the door to honest conversation.

Step 2: Ask Open-Ended Questions, Not Leading Ones:

Instead of planting seeds of doubt with questions like “Do you think they’re a good influence?”, encourage critical thinking with prompts like “How does this relationship make you feel?” or “What are your concerns about this person?”

Step 3: Validate Their Feelings, Even the Ones You Disagree With:

Remember, your teen is experiencing this relationship firsthand. Even if you don’t like the person, acknowledge their feelings by saying things like “It sounds like you care about them” or “I understand why this is challenging.”

Step 4: Share Your Observations (But Gently):

Once you’ve established a safe space, you can cautiously share your concerns. Focus on specific behaviors, not personal attacks. For example, instead of saying “They’re manipulative,” you could say “I’ve noticed they tend to guilt you into doing things you don’t want to do.”

Step 5: Empower Them, Don’t Dictate:

Ultimately, the decision is up to your teen. You can offer guidance and support, but avoid ultimatums or threats. Encourage them to trust their gut, set healthy boundaries, and know that you’re there for them no matter what.

Remember: This may not be a one-time conversation. Be patient, supportive, and offer a listening ear whenever they need it.

Bonus Tip: Lead by example! Build healthy relationships in your own life and model the kind of love and respect you want your teen to experience.

The Takeaway:

Talking to your teen about a questionable friend or partner can be tricky, but it’s an important conversation to have. By approaching it with empathy, open communication, and a focus on healthy relationships, you can empower your teen to make wise choices and navigate the complexities of their social world. Honestly, the relationship I have with my girls is the most important thing ever so I will do whatever it takes to keep them safe and happy but, at the same time, our relationship is one built on trust, respect and unconditional love so I have to keep it real with them. Also, you are not always going to love who your ten choses to spend their time with or invest their love into but when you see them headed for danger, you should try to talk to them in a way that respects them as young adults. 

Now, onto you, fellow warriors! What are your tips for communicating with your teens about tough topics? Share your experiences and advice in the comments below!

P.S. Remember, taking care of yourself is crucial when navigating the sometimes-turbulent waters of parenthood. So, do something small for yourself today – take a walk, read a book, or indulge in your favorite dessert. You deserve it

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