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Frenemy or Friend? How to Spot the Signs of Unhealthy Friendship in Kids

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Signs of an Unhealthy Friendship

Problems arise when friendships are unhealthy. In these situations, the friendship becomes more harmful than it is helpful and can leave your child experiencing a number of conflicting emotions.

"Unhealthy friendships can be very detrimental for kids but are often even more harmful to teens," says Hailey Shafir, LCMHCS, LPCS, LCAS, CCS, a mental health and addiction specialist. "Teenagers begin prioritizing their friendships with peers more during middle and high school, and are more susceptible to bullying, peer pressure, and picking up negative habits and behaviors depending on who they are spending time with. Bad friends can also create a lot of stress and drama for kids and teens."

There Is a Power Imbalance

Healthy friendships involve cooperation and collaboration, but these characteristics are rarely present in an unhealthy friendship. Instead, you are likely to see a friend who likes to be the one in charge and make all the decisions.

Features Unkind or Mean Behavior

Sometimes unhealthy friendships will involve mean or unkind behavior. For instance, your child's friend may be overly critical or talk badly about others. They also may laugh and make fun of other people for the way they dress, look, or act. They may even resort to belittling and ridiculing your child in front of other people or exploit their generosity and goodwill.

If you are unsure whether your child's friend is being unkind, take a closer look at how your child acts when the friend is around, says Nikki Smith, M.Ed., NCC, NCSC, CSWC, a nationally certified school counselor and manager of counseling services for a Colorado school. These subtle changes in your child's expressions or behavior may provide more insight than you realize.

"If the friend is constantly poking fun, gossiping, or putting your child down (even in jest) it’s probably a good idea to take another look," Smith says. "Pay attention to your child’s demeanor when [they are] around this friend. Does it change? Does the friend ever apologize? If not, that could be an indication that this friendship is not mutually beneficial."



source: Verywellfamily

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