November 05, 2012 —

The season of Thanksgiving always reminds me of the communities that we all belong to, and how we can work together to work for change. Whether it is church, school, sports clubs, or other organizations, there are many opportunities to make a positive impact on all of the children in our lives, not just our own.

It is important to talk to your children about the dangers of drug and medicine abuse, but we can’t forget about their friends. Sometimes a teen will pay more attention to an adult who isn’t their own parent – and as a parent, I would hope that other adults are watching out for my children too. It takes a whole community to raise healthy teens, and no parent can do it alone. So if you think that your child’s friends are engaging in dangerous behaviors, say something! It can be as simple as asking how they’re doing or showing an interest in their lives. Here are some of my tips for getting to know my children’s friends:

  • Ask your child who their closest friends are and what they’re interested in. This will help you put faces to names when you see them around.
  • Meet their parents. If your child has very good friends, make an effort to get to know their parents and families.
  • When your child’s friends are over, ask them about their day or how school is going. Show them you care about what’s going on in their lives.
  • Compliment your child’s friends in the very way that you compliment your own children. You never know when our youth need a kind word to build their spirits, and your very words could raise their self esteem.

When children are little, parents have a hand in “choosing” their friends – we decide who to invite over for play dates or trips to the park. However, as teens grow older, they select their own friends from school, sports, and other communities. As a parent, you want them to choose friends with the same values you teach them – values like healthy living. Talking to your children about their friends is a great way to help them make good friends.  I was reminded of this lately when my daughter was telling me about a new friend of hers. “Mom,” she said, “she’s like us.” I saw that my daughter was choosing friends who have the same priorities that our family shares and that I’ve talked to her about. And that’s truly something to be thankful for.

How do you watch out for your children’s friends? Share your tips in the comments below!