Ask Dr. Mary

A Good Friend's Bad Influence

It took my third grader a long time to find a close friend. We were glad when she finally hooked up with a classmate, but now we're having second thoughts. This "friend" is a really negative influence. We'd like to guide our daughter away from this girl. How can we keep them apart?

By the time a girl reaches 8 or 9 years of age, she is starting to enjoy the independence of choosing her own friends. So attempts to keep your daughter away from her friend might be counterproductive.
Instead, encourage the girls to participate in group activities. Children like your daughter, who take a while to find close friends, sometimes feel they can only relate to one person. As a result, they latch on to a single friend and hesitate to make friends with anyone else. Groups offer a nonthreatening way to hold on to a "social security blanket" while meeting other possible friends.
During the elementary-school years, the telephone can help build relationships: it's much easier to talk with an unseen person than face-to-face. Encourage your daughter to call other classmates for help with homework or to check on the meeting place for activities. Telephone acquaintances can quickly become personal friends.
Support your daughter's involvement in church activities?you might even offer to take her and her friends to a church work day or the Friday-evening skating party.
In casual conversation, talk about your own friends: what you look for in a friend, what's hard about being a good friend and valued friends you've had through the years. Be careful, though, that your heartfelt and legitimate concern about your daughter's one friend does not become a focal point of your conversations.

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May 25

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