Picture a white-water rafting trip with the pals of your choice.You want people you can trust in your raft!Greg Lund used this word picture to help his 15-year-old son, Elliot, to make good choices in friends.

“The river is a force to be respected and must be approached with a healthy fear,” Greg says.“What kind of people do you want to shoot the rapids with you, those who are careless and carefree, not taking the force and power of the river seriously?With people like that in your raft, you put not only yourself but also those around you at risk.”

Greg and his wife, Jill, are doing everything they can to help their oldest son, Elliot, get this one right; he has four younger brothers watching and learning.

If you’re a parent of a teen, consider the Lunds’ advice and examples of fellow parents who are helping their children navigate the white water of selecting good friends. Ask your teen, “Whom do you want in your raft?”

Lee and Beth Leitch are raising their kids – one fresh out of his teens, a daughter in the middle of them.They advise not to wait till your children become teenagers to talk about the values to look for in a friend.

“Peer pressure and the desire for independence increase dramatically during the teen years,” Beth says, “causing a teen to take sides with, or defend, friends rather than talk about how to choose friends wisely.”

The Leitches had laid this foundation by the time teenager Curtis brought home one particular friend who played tough, ignored house rules and lied.Curtis was blind to his friend’s faults.At first Curtis defended him, but when a $20 bill and silver chain disappeared from his room, Curtis asked his mom if they could talk.

“Curtis asked if I thought his friend might have taken the items,” Beth says.“I asked him why he thought that might be the case.That led to a great discussion, and we reviewed the things that are important to consider when choosing a friend.”

Talk often about being a good friend

Clem and Julia Boyd use dinnertime talks to keep up with their three kids’ friends. “Questions seem to be best in sorting out this stuff,” Clem says.How did you meet this friend? What kind of things is he or she into?

Clem and Julia talk about the values of their friends.

“Our son David’s best friend is a kid I wouldn’t have picked at all,” Clem says, “But we decided to work on that relationship.”They invited the friend into their home.

“He’s still got rough edges, but in many ways he’s a good friend for David. He’s a hard worker, has a sensitive heart, and I see a serving attitude in this guy.”

Love your teens and their friends

Bill and Becky Smoldt’s two daughters are in their 20s and starting families of their own.As Bill and Becky look back, the best thing they did that helped the girls be discerning in friendships was to accept every friend they brought home.

“We opened our house to all their friends, even the ones we really didn’t want them to be friends with,” Bill says.“In some cases, we had a positive influence on the kids.”

Bill remembers one grating friend of his daughter Jesi.“We opened our arms to him, but he tried to make Jesi choose between us and him,” Bill says.  Sometime later, she asked us, “Why would he think I would give up my family for him?”

As your teens navigate friendship choices, remind them that “If one falls down, his friend can help him up.But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Help your teens choose these kinds of friends for their raft.

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