5 Ways to Vet Your Kids’ Friends

I stood in our kitchen, completely frozen. Concern overcame me as my son’s words hit me about an incident earlier that day. It was a harsh reality check—he was being mocked by a classmate for not looking at pornography on somebody’s phone. I realized I didn’t know my son’s friend as well as I thought I did.

As parents, we want to ensure that our children surround themselves with positive influences who support their growth and well-being. The company our kids keep can significantly impact their behavior, attitudes, and choices. Here are 5 ways to ensure your kids’ friends are the influences that help your child grow, not get off track.

1. Talk to their parents.

Believe it or not, some parents don’t try nor have the desire to get to know the parents of kids their children spend time with. This is a red flag for you. Interacting with the parents is essential, and you can figure out a lot about what the kids are into and what has influenced them by getting to know their parents. My son had one friend who would regularly come over whose parents would immediately drive away as soon as the car door shut, even when I tried to make contact. This kid ended up having some trouble and getting suspended from school.

2. Talk to your kids’ friends.

I glean much information from talking to my kids’ friends when they’re around. It’s much easier to assess kids’ motives and the meaning behind their demeanor when you initiate and carry on conversations with them. Do they make eye contact? Are they respectful and forthcoming with answers when you chat with them? These are all things you can assess when you carry on a conversation. It also lets you learn more about their family and gives you an opportunity to spot any red flags.

3. Believe your eyes.

As the father of five kids, I’ve seen it all. Yet the most important lesson I’ve learned about my kids’ friends is that you can sum it up by just watching how they act and what they do. Today, with social media, you can also get a peek at what they’re like by what they post. Our kids aren’t allowed social media, but not all parents have that restriction. You aren’t right 100% of the time, but by watching their behavior, in person and online, you can quickly identify unhealthy influences.

4. Set boundaries.

When my kids start chatting with friends, hanging out with them, or doing any other activity, I speak directly to my kids’ friends so they know what our house rules are. This sets a clear boundary that you can use as a measuring stick for their influence on your kids. If your kids’ friends don’t respect your boundaries and often lead your kids outside them, it’s not a healthy relationship for your child.

5. Trust your gut.

As parents, you know the feeling. It hits you right in the gut when something isn’t right with your kids. If you see trouble signs in the other areas outlined above, then go with your gut. Yes, your kids might not be happy you suddenly are shutting down the opportunity to hang out with a new “friend,” but you’ll both appreciate it later. Our intuition is powerful when protecting and raising our kids. Trust it.

Sound off: What impact will kids friends have on them?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What impact do you think your friends will have on you?”