Just how important are our children’s friends?

The friends you make as a child can have a huge impact on your life and many parents are aware of this, so they try to have a say in who their kids play with. What are your thoughts – should kids have free reign to make their own friends?

Written by Charlotte Blairman

Friendships among children are often seen as cute and innocent, but they can have a huge impact on a child’s life. Having friends is very important to young people – as it is to us all – and is really vital in terms of their development, both emotionally and socially.

So what happens when you don’t like your child’s choice of friends? Research by Voucherbox says that you’re not alone. In fact, 41% of parents have admitted to feeling exactly the same way. The reasons cited are bullying, naughtiness and being manipulative. However, some parents said the child was simply spoilt, which is possibly why many of those surveyed also admitted to disliking the child’s parents.

Of course, some reasons for disliking other people’s children are questionable. Remember when Katie Hopkins said that she wouldn’t allow her children to play with others based on their names? Hopkins actively didn’t allow some friendships, but many parents are far more passive about the situation. In fact, only 29% of parents encourage other friendships, whilst 25% keep quiet entirely.

Arguably though, parents have every right to be stressed. Some children simply are a bad influence, and it can affect other children and their daily lives. Whilst children need to be able to think independently, the ‘wrong’ friends could have a lasting impact on them and cause them to act negatively too.

According to research, children learn more from their peers than their parents. This can be really worrying for parents who are doing everything right, only to have their hard work undone by someone else’s child. A psychologist said that a child from a disciplined home can end up with the same problems as a child from a chaotic home if they’re exposed to a lot of bad behaviour when their own parents’ backs are turned.

This can prove a very difficult situation indeed – parents can’t control what goes on at school, and too much interference might cause their children to resent them, because they don’t fully understand the situation or why they can’t play with certain children any more.

Good social interaction among children correlates with happiness and other emotional growth. When they’re well adjusted in this area, it is proven that they are more likely to do better at school and therefore in later life. On the contrary, if children fall in with the wrong crowd (or if they’re bullied), they may not be as well adjusted, which can translate into problems with their education, and spill into their home life.

No parent wants their child’s entire life to be affected by things that happen in the playground, so whilst you can’t choose your child’s friends for them, you can help to ensure stability at home, and play dates with children you feel are suitable. Remember, always listen to your child, too. If your child is communicating with you, always try to be aware of which children come across well in stories, and don’t just go off your own prejudices.