Aerial view of girl holding plastic cup of beer

We all hope that our child's friends will provide support, understanding, and genuine concern for their wellbeing. But, sometimes you may worry that some friends may be having a negative influence on them. On the other hand, positive relationships provide young people with important social and emotional skills to take through to adulthood.

Signs of negative friendships may include peers that:

  • demonstrate self-destructive behaviours
  • are much older than your child
  • encourage your child to become very secretive about their friends
  • show manipulative or bullying behaviours
  • make your child feel negative or withdrawn
  • pressure your child to engage in risky behaviours such as being sexually active before they’re ready.

The desire to be accepted can be so strong that your child might put up with negative peer pressure from their friends to avoid being alone. They will often need support to cope with these kinds of relationships, and especially how to end them.

Supporting your teenager through negative friendships

Peer friendships are incredibly important through the teenage years, so chances are that if you force your child to end a friendship, they’ll retaliate with anger. It may take some time before your teenager can see the impact of a negative friendship and take action. However, some things you can try include:

  • Encourage your child to think about the impact on themselves and their family. Encourage them to notice patterns – like getting in to trouble more around certain friends.
  • Encourage positive friendships. If your child has friends that you believe are a good influence, support them in spending time with them.
  • Find distractions. Is your child spending time with negative people because they’re bored? Help them find more constructive ways to spend their time, like developing hobbies or part-time work.
  • Enlist additional support. If a friendship is having a seriously detrimental impact on your child, you may consider talking to the school or other parents, and develop strategies together. If approaching other parents, first try putting yourself in their shoes and imagine how you would feel if someone approached you about your own child being a negative influence. Be open to hearing the other side of the story.

Page last review by ReachOut Parents Clinical Advisory Group on