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Helping Your Student Avoid The Influence Toxic Friends

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Teens living independently for the first time can sometimes get involved with the “wrong crowd.” When parents aren’t around full-time to offer advice, high stress levels can lead to drug abuse, alcohol problems, and worse.

It is not unusual for parents to defend their children when they get caught in unfavorable circumstances. How many times have you heard someone say something like, “It’s not my child’s fault; it’s the people they call their friends.” Here’s a dose of reality. Teens end up being around toxic friends because it is a group where they feel accepted.

How to Encourage College Students to Recognize Their Circumstances

Most first-year college students are 18, which makes them a legal adult. Their status as an adult can make it more challenging to direct them away from a toxic group compared to when they were younger. Parents must often help their college age children recognize the toxicity in their friend group before steps can get taken to remove this negativity.

When you have a conversation about this topic, don’t be confrontational. If you ask these questions and listen, you can direct your children back to where they should be.

Do your friends support who you are?

Everyone is unique and weird in lovely ways. It’s what sets us apart from each other. When your friends don’t accept these quirks, it speaks to a toxic environment. It isn’t always easy to stay true to yourself when that means no one wants to be around you. Having open communication lines and access to high school friends can sometimes help this situation.

Are they encouraging you to be successful?

Kids don’t go to college thinking that they’ll become dropouts. Their goal is to achieve a degree, get into a good job, and pursue their dreams. When friends criticize these actions, it is often done to drag others down into a pit of despair. Instead of accepting those limitations, look for the ways you have strength. Authentic friends want you to reach your goals.

Do you have to do things their way?

Toxic people expect everyone to fall in line with a specific routine. If you refuse to do things that way, you’re not accepted in the group. Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel like it is right, it probably isn’t.

Are they there when you need them?

Real friends drop everything to be by your side when you have a crisis moment. When you have tough times, you’ll see a person’s true colors. If people aren’t making much time for you, are they trying to take advantage of your generosity? Relationships are rarely a 50-50 proposition at any given moment, but it should be that way with a long-term measuring stick.

Encourage your student to seek help

Unless your student is studying in your hometown, it is likely that you are trying to help them from a distance. Most colleges and universities have counseling services and the dean of student’s office that can help. Additionally, many communities have resources to help your student. A quick internet search should help you locate local recourses that your student may need. If needed, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) is always available for your student.

The people you have by your side are what matters more in life than where you are. Having tough conversations about toxic friend can be challenging, but it can also help college students identify relationships they should continue and the ones that need to end.

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