When it comes to children and friendships, we often see them as pure and positive.
However, it is important to note that toxic relationships can form even among the most vulnerable age groups. These kinds of relationships can have a big impact on a child’s mental health and development.
Parents and caregivers must recognise the warning signs of toxic friendships in children. By doing this, we can step in and assist our children in navigating more positive social interactions.
Signs of toxic friendships in children include:
1. Controlling behaviour
When a child exerts dominance over another, this is an indication of a toxic friendship. This can present itself in a variety of ways, such as continuously interrupting or dictating what games to play or who to make friends with. Within a friendship, children should have the freedom and autonomy to make their own decisions and freely voice their thoughts.
Toxic friendships frequently involve manipulation, in which one child attempts to manipulate or fool their companion to obtain what they desire. This could involve techniques such as guilt-tripping, peer pressure, and even emotional blackmail. Healthy friendships are built on honesty, respect, and support rather than deception.
3. Extreme rivalry
While a little competition among friends is acceptable and even good, an overwhelming concentration on rivalry may indicate a toxic friendship. A child’s stress level may increase, and their self-esteem may drop if they feel threatened or undermined by their friends all the time. Healthy friendships promote cooperation, the sharing of accomplishments, and the celebration of one another’s victories.
4. Exclusion regularly
When a child is repeatedly ignored or left out of activities by their friend, this is an indication of a toxic friendship. This exclusion can be upsetting and detrimental to a child’s self-esteem. In a healthy friendship, both children should feel welcomed and valued.
5. Emotional turbulence
A toxic friendship can be characterised by frequent emotional turbulence. If a child exhibits major mood swings, excessive jealousy, or regular arguments that are frequently unexplained or exaggerated, it may suggest a toxic dynamic. Healthy friendships require emotional stability and open communication.
6. Lack of empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and acknowledge another person’s feelings or circumstances. It is a fundamental component of effective friendships. In toxic friendships, one child may consistently disregard their friend’s emotions or demonstrate a lack of empathy, resulting in one-sided interactions that can be emotionally draining for the receiving child.
7. Persistent negativity
A toxic friend can often bring constant negative energy into a child’s life. This could involve criticism, belittling, or always focusing on the negative aspects of the friendship. A healthy friendship should create an environment where both children uplift and support each other.
Recognising these signs in your child’s friendships is the first step towards addressing the issue. As adults, it is important to intervene and help children understand how to establish boundaries and cultivate healthier relationships.
What to Do as a Parent
Here are a few tips to guide you through this process:
Encourage your child to communicate how they feel about their friendships, and try to listen carefully. Make a safe environment for them, where they can always express their concerns.
Encourage positive interactions
Encourage your child to participate in activities that will improve their social skills and boost their chances of making good friendships.
Taking the lead
Set a good example by maintaining healthy friendships with set boundaries, respect, and empathy. Children frequently learn by observing.
Teach how to resolve conflicts
Assist your child in developing key problem-solving skills so that they can resolve problems constructively within their friendships.
Advice on friend selection
Talk to your child about what makes a good friend, emphasizing values like support, trust, empathy, and respect.
In conclusion, keep in mind that dealing with toxic friendships is essential for a child’s emotional growth. Early intervention by parents and other adults can promote healthier social interactions, ultimately enhancing the general well-being of the child.