What to Do if Your Teen Is Hanging Out With the Wrong Crowd

Teen Hanging Out with Wrong Crowd
SW Productions / Photodisc

Watching your teen develop friendships with peers who are considered to be in the “wrong crowd” can be terrifying. In less serious cases, the wrong crowd may include teens who don’t take school seriously or who don’t exhibit good manners. In more serious instances, the wrong crowd may constitute teens who drink alcohol, skip school, and behave like juvenile delinquents.

It can be frustrating and terrifying for parents to learn that their teen wants to spend time with peers who aren’t exactly upstanding citizens.

 If your teen has started hanging out with the wrong crowd, it’s important to take a proactive approach to addressing the issue.

Stay Calm

Peers can be influential, but parents still have a bigger influence on teens. So before you begin imagining disastrous scenarios, remind yourself that a few minutes with the wrong crowd won’t erase the years of values you’ve instilled in your teen.

It is appropriate to be concerned, however. Certain behaviors – like drinking, smoking, or even cheating – spread like wildfire among groups of friends. When groups of friends participate in problematic behavior – including self-injury or illegal activity- these behaviors become normalized. Eventually, teens can become desensitized to the seriousness of them and the likelihood that they’ll join in increases.

Read More: 10 Ways to Teach Teens Healthy Values

Discuss Your Concerns

Talk to your teen about your concerns.

Instead of saying, “I don’t like your friends,” or naming specific people that you disapprove of, discuss the behavior that you’re concerned about. Try saying, “I’m concerned that some of your friends skip school sometimes.”

Be upfront in sharing that you think that some bad behavior could influence your teen’s behavior.

Also discuss other potential issues – such as being guilty by association. For example, if your teen is with a group of peers who steal from a store, your teen could be charged with a crime as well.

Keep the communication about the subject ongoing. Avoid nagging or lecturing. Instead, ask questions that encourage your teen to discuss the issue. For example, ask, “How do you feel about the fact that some of your friends got caught drinking?”

Read More: 8 Strategies to Get Your Teen to Talk to You

Establish Rules and Set Limits

If your teen is hanging out with questionable characters, it’s important to establish clear rules and limits. Discuss the consequences ahead of time so your teen understands what will happen if the rules are broken.

Avoid forbidding your teen from spending time with certain friends. Doing so will likely only backfire for several reasons. First, you can’t control who your child talks to at school. Also, today’s teens communicate via social media and other electronic messages.

Trying to prevent any contact will likely only invite rebellion and sneaking around.

Also, teens – like many adults – want something more when they can’t have it. Thinking that certain friends are “banned” may only increase a teen’s desire to hang out with those friends, even if it means sneaking around to do so.

Consider allowing your teen to spend time with friends when it is under your supervision or in a safe environment. For example, allow your teen to invite peers into your home. But, discuss the rules and make it clear that teens who break the rules might not be welcomed back into your home.

Seek Professional Help When Necessary

Sometimes spending time with the wrong crowd can influence good kids to behave badly. If you’re seeing changes in your child’s behavior that are alarming, seek professional help.

A trained mental health professional can help uncover the reasons why your child is hanging out with the wrong crowd. Poor self-esteem, identity issues, or a lack of social skills can all contribute to a teen getting involved with kids who make poor choices. A therapist can assist a teen with recognizing the potential problems associated with spending time in specific social circles and therapy can often help teens make better choices.

Read More: My Teen Refuses to go to Counseling - Now What?

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