My Family Care asks Michelle: Most of the time we're excited when our children make a new friend, but sometimes we feel they were better off before. Whether the new friend is overly mischievous, shows bullying tendencies or leads your child to temptation, how can you address the issue of negative friendships, without going down the Katie Hopkins route?
A whole new world
Making a new friend can be the most amazing thing in the world. It brings with it the sense of a new beginning, new adventures and someone else who 'just gets you'. But not all friendships are positive - the question is, can you identify the bad ones before they have a negative effect on your life?
Friendships can provide you with networks, with sounding boards, with moral support and with someone to share new experiences with.
I remember when I was a child - making friends seemed easy, we bonded over simple things like having the same sandwich for lunch or comparing notes on the latest episode of Smurfs. Some of those friendships stood the test of time, while others ran their course and we moved on with our lives. Every now and then one of those friendships didn't go the way we imagined, whether the individual introduced us to experiences we were not comfortable with, or treated us with disrespect - it was hard.
As a child, you don't always know what right and wrong looks like, but you have a support network of people who are looking out for you. They're there to help pick up the pieces and offer advice - and as a child I was more willing to listen to that advice.
As adults, we think we know better. We think we've learned the lessons we need to and the decisions will be the right ones. I look back now and know that part of the reason I became the person I am today was because of the lessons I learned from those ill-fated friendships; lessons I carry with me now and use when I make new friends as an adult.
Making - and disassociating ourselves from - friends as we get older is a lot more difficult. It's not as simple as moving classes or making playdates with a different child. It's about navigating the fall out of befriending and de-friending someone at work or in the community. It's about knowing when you're following in footsteps you're not comfortable with and knowing when to walk away.
Sometimes we're in a position where totally disassociating ourselves from someone who has a negative effect on us is impossible. They may be a work colleague or the parent of your child's best friend. Limiting contact and keeping things strictly professional is the best we can do.
Know when to step in
As a parent, it can be difficult to know when to let your child make mistakes and when to step in and take control. Speaking from my own experience, when my parents voiced an opinion about someone I'd met, I wasn't interested in what they had to say. If they suggested I find new friends I was more determined to make it work. As a child you're in the process of deciding who you are and what kind of person you want to be.
Get to know your child's friends, spend time in their presence and provide them with the opportunities to make good choices. You've been raising them with good morals and helping turn them into proper little humans, so give them some credit and some time to make the right choices; with a little guidance, hopefully they will grow out of the toxic friendships. If you're concerned and think that the situation is getting out of hand, talk to your child, help them make the right choices - just be careful you don't make too many demands, as it may backfire.
Michelle Barr, Communications Manager, Auntie of two