As parents, our aspirations for our children don’t waver as they grow; we yearn to see them evolve into compassionate, successful adults. This journey includes witnessing them develop their social circles during the more complex teen and preteen years, a phase ripe with both opportunities and challenges. The discovery that your teen might be gravitating towards friendships that engage in risky, illegal, dangerous or disrespectful behaviors can be distressing. This crucial period demands a nuanced approach to guide your teen while respecting their growing need for independence. Here’s a balanced strategy for steering them towards positive relationships and decisions.

Reflect on Your Concerns

Understanding why you’re uneasy about your teen’s friends is a critical first step. Is it their involvement in dangerous activities, or are you worried about influences that contradict your family’s values? Pinpointing the exact nature of your concerns can inform a more thoughtful and effective approach.

Foster Open Dialogue

Communication is key. Instead of imposing bans that might push your teen away, initiate open-ended conversations. Inquire about what they admire in these friendships and share your observations and worries candidly, focusing on expressing care rather than controlling their choices.

Discuss Values and Consequences

Use these discussions to underscore the importance of values like integrity, respect, and safety. Instead of condemning their friends’ negative behaviors, highlight the qualities of positive, supportive relationships. Encourage your teen to consider how their friends’ behaviors align with these values and the potential consequences of risky actions.

Model Positive Relationships

Teens are closely watching our actions and the company we keep. Demonstrating healthy relationships and respectful behavior in your interactions can serve as a powerful example of the friendships you hope they aspire to have.

Establish Boundaries

Clearly outline what behaviors are unacceptable and why, emphasizing the importance of safety and respect. Explain the rationale behind these boundaries and the consequences of stepping beyond them, fostering an environment where your teen feels guided rather than restricted.

Promote Diverse Interactions

Encourage your teen to explore a variety of social groups through extracurricular activities, sports, or community service. Engaging with a broad spectrum of peers can dilute the influence of any negative friendships and enrich your teen’s social experience.

Offer Trust and Support

Believe in your teen’s capacity to navigate their social world and learn from their experiences, including missteps. Provide a steady presence they can turn to for advice, ensuring they feel supported as they make their way through these formative years.


Guiding your teen through the labyrinth of adolescence, particularly when it comes to their choice of friends and navigating the allure of risky behaviors, is undeniably challenging. Yet, it offers a pivotal chance for growth—for them and for you. By approaching these situations with empathy, open communication, and steadfast support, you can help your teen cultivate discernment in their friendships and decisions. The aim is not to dictate their social journey but to arm them with the wisdom and values needed to forge nurturing, respectful relationships now and into adulthood.

For more information on how to foster positive friendships with your child, contact the child therapists at Child and Family Therapy Center in St. Pete, FL. 

Fostering positive childhood friendships