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Birds of a feather flock togather: Helping teens pick good friends

As a kid I always remember my parent’s saying “Birds of a feather flock together” or “If your friends jump off a cliff are you going to do it?” I dreaded these conversations.  I would never jump off a cliff unless there was water underneath it, I am not an idiot! I am not sure what they said after these opening clichés because I think I just tuned them out. I’m sure it was a bunch of great stuff, my parents are pretty awesome but again, I didn’t hear it.
I do however remember them talking to me about the importance of picking “good” friends, which is what I think they were trying to get at with those terrible clichés. Many adults in my parent’s generation emphasized the importance of hanging out with kids from “good families”. Back then a good family was a Mom, a Dad and kids from those same two parents that went to church.  

As an older child and teeneager I can remember adults around me whispering “they got divorced” or “those aren’t really his kids that’s why they are so bad”.  I don't know why this stuck out to me at a young age. Maybe it was becasue I had a few friends who had divorced parents and they didn't seem so bad.

Divorce was blamed for all things bad. Kids from “broken” homes were the ones who got into fights, stole, drank, had sex and got thrown in to jail or so they said.

I always think about this when talking to my kids about picking good friends.  It makes me a little uncomfortable and sometimes sad. My kids are the “bad” kids. They have no father, a busy single mom and know what life after the D word (DIVORCE) is like.


Teaching the boys about friends
Often we rely on what our parents taught us when raising our own kids. The stuff we like we keep the stuff we don’t like as much we dump or adapt.  

As a single parent it has been especially hard for me to rely on the advice I got from my parent’s as a guide on a few topics like picking friends. After all, my kids are the “troubled kids” from a “broken home.” The old pick "good kids" from "good families" doesn't really work for us, mainly because of what it implies about kids who aren't from good families.
So what advice have I decided to give my kids?
  • Pick friends who make good choices
  • Find people who accept you for who you are
  • Don’t hang out with people who make you do things you don’t want to do or know is wrong
  • Find people who respect you as a person and show them respect back
  • Stand up for your friends and expect them to do the same for you
  • Hang out with people who have similar interests and goals (stay in school, go to college, religious beliefs)
  • A few good friends are better than a bunch of phony ones
Does my advice work? I don’t know, I hope so. I will tell you what I do know. My kids are awesome and so are their friends.
This weekend I had a house full of 5 teenage boys. They were all polite, respectful and funny. I heard no cursing all weekend. We sat at the table and ate 2 meals together. They played video games, talked about anime, talked about what it would be like if their life was a horror movie (you know who dies first) and a bunch of other crazy boy stuff. They also talked about going to college together. No talk of sex or drugs. This is not just because I was in the room. I ease dropped and even behind closed doors the boys we just having fun and being boys, good boys not trouble making perverts. They did talk about a few girls they have crushes on a few times but not in a disrespectful way.

Your Teens Friends
Friends can influence your teens in a major way. They can help keep your kid out of trouble by providing positive peer pressure or pull them over to the dark side. Talking to you kids about picking good friends early is crucial.
I think it is also important to talk to your kids friends. I have great relationships with the boys friends. Sometimes they can talk to me about stuff they don't tell their own Mom's. Nothing major here, mostly just conversations about Mom's new boyfiend or new husband and the adjusting that has to happen. I get to know them a little better and I think they feel a little more accountable to me.  
When the boys and their friends walk in the door after school on a day I am home they can expect me to ask them ALL about their homework or their grades. I think they kind of like it. They know I care about them too. I believe this makes them feel comfortable at our house because they come over often, which is great! Having a house full of extra kids great may be a little more work at meal times but I know where they all are and I know they are all safe!!

While I do care about the boys friends what I really want to do is create a safe, comfortable enviornment for my boys. This means welcoming friends even when I don't feel like it and helping them pick and keep good friends around.

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