Each day they congregate in the hall before school, they sit in the cafeteria at lunch, and they chill out in the parking lot before going home. Who are they? They are your teen and their friends, and they like to hang out.
Today, friends are constantly "on" 24/7 in their relationships. They use technology in the creation and maintenance of friendships. Frequently they communicate via text messages, IMs, email, etc. This can lead to a breakdown in communication and cause conflict. Many teens are trying to resolve this conflict electronically instead of having a face to face conversation. Popularity and the need to belong are highly sought attributes that teens gravitate towards. That's why it's so important that your teen knows the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship.
Answer the following questions to determine if your teen is in a toxic friendship group?
1. Does there always seem to be some sort of drama brewing in the group?
2. Do they exclude one another from events? You know the old two is company, three is a crowd experience?
3. Do they tend to be jealous or envious of each other?
4. Is there a ringleader of the group that keeps things stirred up?
5. Does one member of the group like to steal the spot light from the others?
6. Have the friends posted rude or uncanny comments about each other on social networking sites?
7. Do the friends get mad if an "outsider" is included in "their" activities?
If you answered "yes" to one of more of these questions, your teen may be hanging out with the wrong group. So, now what?
Quick tips to get out of these relationships:
- Stop hanging out with the group.
- Find other friends and then start hanging out with them.
- Be direct and tell the friend(s) that you don't want to hang out with them anymore.
- Get involved in other things that take up the time you usually spend with the group. You will likely find other friends that you want to hang out with.
- Stop sharing personal information as soon as you decide to drop the friendship(s).
- As people change, friendships change. What brought the group together may not exist any longer. "Good" friends are friends forever.
- Once you decide to end the friendship, do it quickly and stick to your decision. Don't back paddle, it will only make it harder.
Friendships are a very important part of being a teen. They're important for adults too. You'd think by the time we've reached adulthood we'd know the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. But that's simply not true. According to a survey conducted by Today.com and SELF magazine adults remain in toxic relationships too. Out of the 18,000 women and 4,000 men that were surveyed, it was found that 8 in 10 adults endure toxic friendships. The survey indicated that the top 5 toxic friends are:
1. "The Narcissist" - You know the "all about me" friend that is so self-absorbed that there's little time for anyone else.
2. "The Chronic Downer" - The emotional drainer that can zap the energy right out of you.
3. "The Critic" - Not easily satisfied, this person will belittle most things they encounter.
4. "The Underminer" - The friend who always has a snide remark or sarcastic comment.
5. "The Flake" - Unreliable friends.
Do you know anyone that falls into one of these categories? Better yet, do any of these toxic friends resemble someone your teen hangs out with?
After reading the results of the Today.com and SELF magazine survey, I couldn't help but wonder, "Are toxic adult relationships really all that different from those of our teens?" Sure, many of us may not run in friendship groups any more, but to put up with a friend that uses or mistreats us? That's not right, just as it's not right for our teens to let their friends treat them badly. There's a saying, if you can count your good friends on one hand, then consider yourself a lucky person. I believe there's credibility in this saying. We don't need 200+ friends on social networking sites, just as teens don't either.
True friends are those that share our good and bad times. They'll drop everything when you need them and you'll do the same for them. A friend is someone you can confide in and seek guidance from. A friend has your best interest at heart. That's the type of friend that we need to encourage our teens to seek out. That's the kind of friend that we need to seek in our own lives as well.
"Find Out Who Your Friends Are" by Tracy Lawrence is a country song that describes the type of friendship that many of us seek in our own lives. When you're going through a hard time in life, it's those friends that are "...gonna stop everything...never stop to think 'what's in it for me' or 'it's way too far', they just show up with their big old heart, you find out who your friends are."
Does your teen have these types of friends? How about you? If not, then it may be time to "find out who your friends are".