Tuesday's tips: How to help our children make good choices when it comes to friends

I realize now how much simpler life was when my children were in preschool.

It only seemed hard.

Hard is waiting for them to come home by curfew, trusting they make good choices when I’m not around, and hoping they will do the right thing if their friends try to negatively influence them. Between school, sports, clubs and other various activities, their circle of friends extends way beyond my ability to put a name with every face, and certainly a parent to every name. The best I can do is periodically print a phone list from their cell phones and follow Facebook to hopefully have all possible contact information.

So far, communication with my teenager and preteen is forthcoming and respectful. I trust them, but sometimes, it’s hard to trust their friends.

But how do we help choose good friends for our kids?

Unfortunately, we can’t choose their friends as they get older. My daughters have their own interests and personalities separate from my own. They are drawn to people based on their commonalities, not by whose parents I most enjoy.

However, I do believe children learn by example. They look to us for guidance on not only how to treat others, but how we are willing to be treated. The best thing we can do to help our children choose good friends, is to choose good friends for ourselves. I want my circle of influence to exude honesty, loyalty, compassion, generosity and encouragement.

Still, there will always be people in our lives that are needier than others — friends that require more assistance at times, but it shouldn’t have anything to do with their character. It is a important  for our kids to see us extend help to others, yet not become someone’s doormat. Does that mean all of my friends have the same religious, political or spiritual viewpoints as me? No. In fact, my kids know there are some beliefs we have separate from our friends, but they also understand that it is okay to have your own opinion about life, as long as you show respect to others and receive respect in return.

What is the hardest example to demonstrate to my kids about friendships? Cutting ties. Sometimes we outgrow friendships, or realize some relationships are negatively impacting us. When that happens, it is important to let that friendship fade into the background in the most respectful way. It can become a teaching opportunity, explaining to your child why you choose to limit your time with that person. They need to know it is OK to make new friends, let go of old friends, and perhaps, not even be friends with some people at all.


Emily Okaty Wilson
Emily Okaty Wilson is a freelance writer and blogger. Her writing style is conversational, from the heart and sometimes funny, focusing on being a wife, mother, and craft addict. As a self proclaimed procrastinator, she ran her first half marathon at age 40, proving that it's never too late to live the life you imagined. Some of her work has been featured in MomSense Magazine, The Livingston Parent Journal and BlogHer. Her blog is called My Pajama Days, where she documents everything from personal struggles with depression to talking to her kids about sex.