How Can We Help Our Child Out of an Unhealthy Friendship?

Reality is, we all need friends! Friends are a good gift, and essential for our spiritual health. However, when a friendship takes the seat of God in our life, we’re in danger. Kara paves a way for us to steer our kids toward healthy friendships, originally two years ago, but today we get to learn from these timeless truths again!
Alpha v Omega

The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. Proverbs 12:26

While it might be easier to recognize idolatry of a spouse, child, career or dream, it’s much more difficult to identify the trap of an idolatrous friendship. We are so often blind to the dysfunction of unhealthy friendships, and as a result, walk into destructive sin without blinking twice.

Taking it a step further, our child’s peer relationships will be some of the most formative to who they become. So, if friendships hold this much weight, how can we grow in our awareness of unhealthy tendencies and come alongside our kids to help cultivate healthy friendships?

  1. Know the warning signs. Be aware of your child’s friendships. Know the context of their conversations, the frequency of their communication and the type of things they do together. If you’re concerned, ask:
  • Is jealousy a toxic thread in the friendship?
  • What characteristics does this friendship bring out in my child?
  • Is the friendship exclusive or inseparable with a lack of interest in others?
  • Is there an imbalance or abnormal rhythm of giving/taking?
  • Does the friendship require constant communication? (texting, phone calls, snap chats etc)
  • How evident is sarcasm or unnecessary criticism?
  • Does one friend “speak for” the other?
  • Is flattery used as manipulation?
  • 2. Provide a safe place. 
  • If you suspect your child may be involved in an unhealthy friendship, your care and concern matters. Show your attention with gentleness by asking questions about your child’s friendship at a time of non-conflict. Your child may respond in protective or defensive manner about their friendship, even if they do sense a level of toxicity about it. They might even be looking for a way out of the friendship, but also fearful of what would happen if they took a step in that direction. Regardless of how your child presents the situation, seek to remain neutral, aiming to understand their heart’s struggle while affirming your love for them.

    3. Establish appropriate boundaries. As your child begins to see and understand how their friendship might be more destructive, than it is beneficial, help them establish and uphold healthy boundaries.

  • Help your child take responsibility for their own actions.
  • Help your child practice saying “no” when they feel pressured to do or talk about something they are uncomfortable with.
  • Limit the frequency and exclusivity of the time spent in the unhealthy friendship.
  • Encourage your child to spend time with a variety of friends.
  • If efforts to implement boundaries fail, help your child get out of the friendship.
  • Don’t hesitate to call on a pastor or professional counselor.  

We want our kids to thrive in their friendships, directing their dependence towards Jesus, not one another. Pray toward and continue to foster a heart in them to worship God alone!

Check out this series on “Friendships Gone Wrong” by Kelly Needham.

Camper Corner:

Friendships are good gifts from God, but they can also be destructive when they take the place of God in our life. Is there anyone in your life you feel like you cannot function without?

About The Author

Kara Overby

Kara grew up as a camper here at T Bar M. It was the very place where she first experienced Jesus in a powerful and relational way. After serving as an All-Star and TC, her dreams finally came true as she fulfilled her first summer as a Coach out at Camp Travis in 2007, then again in 2008. 

Camp Ministry was an element that Kara's heart beat faster for, so she spent her first year after graduating from Texas A&M in a discipleship program at Pine Cove Camps in...

T Bar M Camps

T Bar M Camps is a place creating life-impacting experiences for thousands of campers every year.