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Top 3 Signs Your Child Has a Toxic Friend | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey


Worried that your child seems to feel bad about themselves after hanging out with a particular friend? Concerned that your kid may not realize they have a “toxic” pal?

Lisa Pion-Berlin is a psychologist, licensed clinical hypnotherapist and CEO of Parents Anonymous. She told Newsweek: “Making friends and peer pressure can be brutal at times… it’s important to establish an open line of communication with your child so you can have them open up about their friends.”

Communication is key as your child may be unaware of the negative impact of some toxic situations, such as bullying, and still consider peers in these settings as friends.

A June 2011 study published in School Psychology International found that “about 8 percent of victims of verbal or physical bullying unilaterally nominated the aggressor as a friend, with 9 percent and 12 percent of aggressors nominating victims as friends in the two cases.”

Here, mental health experts reveal some warning signs that indicate your child may be in a toxic friendship—and what you can do about it.

A stock image of a young girl upset while looking at a phone, with two other girls observing her in the background. Demanding that the friendship end or declaring that your child’s “toxic” friend is no longer welcome in the house risks driving your child further into the friendship, a therapist told Newsweek. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Signs Your Child May Have a Toxic Friend

The Friend is ‘Possessive’ and ‘Overbearing’

Angela Caldwell is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) based in California. She told Newsweek that the first telltale sign is your child giving up valuable possessions, time or other friendships for this “friend.”

The LMFT, who is founder and director of the Caldwell Family Institute in Los Angeles, which specializes in family-based treatment, explained: “Healthy friends don’t ask for much, and are not possessive. And while it’s normal to spend lots of time with a new friend, it’s not normal for that time to become a source of stress.”

Pion-Berlin, who also oversees the California Parent & Youth Helpline and National Parent Helpline, agreed. She noted that signs of toxicity can include a friend making “excessive demands,” having an “overbearing” nature or when there’s a lot of uncertainty about the relationship. A toxic friend may also not want to come over to your house, where they can be observed by a parent.

The psychologist added: “Sudden outbursts, anger and misplaced feelings are all signs of possible bullying behavior or troublesome ego.”

Your Child Feels Bad About Themselves

Another sign to note is when your child starts to feel bad about themselves based on the friend’s opinions or actions, Caldwell said.

“You’ll start to see that much of this new ‘friendship’ is spent on conflict between the two of them, where your child is led to feel ashamed or guilty for not doing enough for the friend,” she explained.

A stock image of a young boy looking upset, sitting alone on a park bench. In a toxic friendship, your child may start to feel bad about themselves based on the friend’s opinions or actions, a therapist told Newsweek.iStock / Getty Images Plus

Your Child Does Things They Don’t Want To Do

Caldwell said: “Toxic friendships are excessively time-consuming, exclusionary of others, and highly manipulative.”

The LMFT said you may notice your child doing things they don’t necessarily want to do. They may be going ahead with it because this “friend” asked them to do it, or because they needed to “be there” for the friend.

What Should I Do if My Child Has a Toxic Friend?

Pion-Berlin advised: “Immediately steering away is important. Is there an older sibling who can also support these changes in behavior? This is not about respect, it’s about your child’s safety and well-being.

“Always pay attention to who your child is hanging out with and do not overlook any changes in their behavior or feelings…sad, isolated or angry,” she added.

Caldwell, however, warned that “coming in hot and hard” can also have the opposite effect of what you want when your child has a toxic friend.

Demanding that the friendship end or declaring that the friend is no longer welcome in the house risks driving your child further into the relationship. Parents attempting to end such friendships on behalf of their children have often found that “they’ve only deepened the bond between their child and a certain friend by inadvertently becoming the common enemy,” she explained.

The LMFT added that if parents spend too much time “steering their children away from toxic people, their children won’t ever develop the skills needed to maneuver around them in the world.”

Caldwell believes “there’s no need to immediately intervene unless there is clear evidence of abuse, so it’s better to handle these delicate matters with care and patience.”

A stock image of a woman sitting next to a younger girl and holding her hand. Parents should reflect what they observe to their child, and gently ask about the friendship when the child seems low after certain encounters with a toxic friend, a therapist told Newsweek. iStock / Getty Images Plus

How Do I Talk to My Child About Their Toxic Friend?

Caldwell said simply “reflecting what you observe to your child, and gently asking about the friendship when your child seems low after certain encounters.”

She added it’s important to validate your child’s feelings. Note “how difficult it is to have contradictory feelings about a person, and how hard it can be to feel closer to someone than you’ve ever felt but also be so hurt by them.”

Pion-Berlin advised sharing your own experiences making friends at that age. This can help them “feel a real connection with you as a person with some similar experiences even though you are their parent.”

Caldwell agreed, noting that children who feel their parents really understand them are more likely to accept their influence.

“Tell your child you’re here to help if they need it, and then leave it,” Caldwell said, adding “just give them ample time, and they’re likely to come around.”

Do you have a parenting-related story or dilemma? Let us know via [email protected]. We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured on Newsweek.

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