With friends like these: Toxic relationships


Most children grow up hearing the phrase from their parent’s mouths, “I hope you aren’t hanging with the wrong crowd,” or, “That boy is not a good person to hang out with.”  The worry on most parents’ minds is toward one child being a bad influence on their child, but there is another type of relationship: the toxic friendship.

Toxicity levels rising

No friendship is perfect and without conflict now and then. Yet, there are a variety of toxic relationships from a friend who uses, takes, forces or mistreats another. The difficulty many face is identifying the toxic relationship and breaking away from it.

Suzanne Deggers-White, Ph.D., describes the details behind a toxic relationship and how trust is built. One person takes a risk, “Such as self-disclosure or favor providing—and your new friend responds with a similar leap of faith and investment of personal, social, or material resources,” White explains. A relationship can become toxic when only one person constantly gives, reaches out or is the instigator. “No one should be the one who is always giving, but there will be times when a friend’s needs might outweigh her investment,” White adds.

For parents who only want to protect their child, it may be a good idea to attempt to know who the child spends time with. This does not mean to stalk or force information out of the child, but invest in the child’s life, ask how his or her day was and listen to the answer. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains the dangers of peer pressure: “The desire to impress your friends may override your fear of taking risks. People can be aware of the toxic friendship, but will continue to be involved regardless.

Letting go and moving on

It can be difficult to let go of a friendship, even if the relationship is toxic. Imagine letting go of a relationship that has gone on for several years and slowly become toxic. In the process of letting go, it is important to think things over first. Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., gives advice on the topic of breaking off a toxic friendship.

No one is perfect and people are bound to fight as Levine explains, “Never make the decision to end a friendship in anger.” As a parent concerned for a child, help the child process and think over the pros and cons of the relationship. Levine offers tips for ending a friendship. One tip is to, “Develop a script and practice it—you might even want to put your thoughts in writing so you are clear to yourself and in your delivery.” This approach may not work for everyone, but can be beneficial for one’s emotional health.

Levine ends with reminding people to, “Take responsibility for making the decision and handle the breakup with grace.” This is not an easy process, but will benefit the child’s health and the future. Toxic relationships can lead to a life of more than just substance abuse, including physical, mental and emotional abuse.

White River Academy is not a second chance to continue n school, but a new start for troubled boys, ages 12 to 17. The residential program instills character values through disciplined education; and promotes positive growth through dual diagnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectal behavioral therapy. For more information or to register, feel free to call 866-520-0905.

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