My teen son’s friends worry me

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS -

Keep talk­ing to your son and don’t be afraid to ask straight out if he’s OK, or if he’s us­ing drugs.

Q: I’m wor­ried about the friends my 14-year-old son has started as­so­ci­at­ing with.

His friend group has changed re­cently and so have his in­ter­ests. He was pre­vi­ously very sporty and rea­son­ably ded­i­cated to his school work whereas now he shows lit­tle in­ter­est in school sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and I sus­pect he may be falling be­hind at school.

I’ve also no­ticed brief things men­tioned at home about his new friends that worry me. Do you have any sug­ges­tions to help him find him­self again?

A: Many par­ents of 14-year olds will re­late to your ques­tion. It’s a tough age and a con­fus­ing time for par­ents and teenagers.

Four­teen is pretty much mid­dle ado­les­cence and it’s an age of changes that range from mild through to ex­ces­sive.

You can ex­pect re­jec­tions, like the way he’s re­jected his friend group and his in­ter­ests.

You can also ex­pect re­bel­lions, like his dis­in­ter­est in sport and his falling be­hind in stud­ies, and an­other thing you can ex­pect is ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, which is pos­si­bly what you’re most con­cerned about.

One of the rea­sons this age is so con­fus­ing for ev­ery­one is that most of the changes that come with mid­dle ado­les­cence are also changes that can be red flags for a child in trou­ble.

The fact that your son has a new friend group seems to me a bit of an alarm bell. Guys of­ten stay tight with their friend group, no mat­ter what they go through as in­di­vid­u­als.

It may be harm­less but you’d be wise to en­sure his new friend group isn’t be­cause he has a drug prob­lem, or a men­tal health prob­lem. Most likely it’s just that he’s en­tered that mono­syl­labic lump­ish stage but here are some things you can do to check.

Keep talk­ing to your son and don’t be afraid to ask straight out if he’s OK, or if he’s us­ing drugs.

Set up a meet­ing at his school – teach­ers are al­ways a great place to start. They know their pupils well and, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, gen­uinely care. Ask your son if he’d like to at­tend the meet­ing.

Your son’s old sport coaches might also be able to throw some light on what has changed.

Talk to your son about his friends, tell him you’re wor­ried about things you’ve heard and ask if he can ex­plain.

And, two more im­por­tant things: keep as­sur­ing him of your un­con­di­tional love and give him hugs. Lump­ish 14-year-old boys of­ten miss out on hugs.

Mary-anne Scott has raised four boys and writ­ten three nov­els for young adults, all of which have been short­listed for the New Zealand Book Awards for Chil­dren and Young Adults. As one of seven sis­ters, there aren’t many par­ent­ing prob­lems she hasn’t talked over. Please note that Mary-anne is not a trained coun­sel­lor. Her ad­vice is not in­tended to re­place that of pro­fes­sional coun­sel­lor or psy­chol­o­gist.

To send Mary-anne a ques­tion, email [email protected] with Dear Mary-anne in the sub­ject line.

Some­times a change in friend group can sig­nal a teenager has a deeper is­sue, says Mary-anne.

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