The summer holidays are rapidly approaching – this means a time of friendship bonding outside the familiar environment of school fraught with hurdles and insecurity.

Author and inter-generational relations expert Eva-Maria Salikhova warns of the impression unhealthy friendships can make on preteens who are navigating the tricky waters of relationships – here are her tips for parents to help them steer their way through.

Revise who they hang out with now

Be open to inviting your preteen’s friends over to your place. Once a preteen is given that option, they will subconsciously reassess how comfortable they are with having these friends come home. If they are not comfortable with the idea, this should be a warning sign for you, and may come as a warning sign for them. If they flat out refuse, it’s worth having a chat about why they don’t feel comfortable which can trigger them to rethink their friendships.

Be cyber-wary

If they have a friend they met online that they are meeting, go along with them, even if you’re just dropping them off, to make sure they are safe. Always suggest that they meet in a public place.

Lead by example

The biggest thing you can do is talk to your preteen about what actually makes a good friendship. Take examples out of your own life and what constituted a good friendship for you. It will start to get them thinking about what exactly they may want in a friendship and what they should be looking for in friends.

Watch for behaviour changes

The biggest tell-tale sign of bad friends is a change of attitude in your preteen. While not to be confused with the rocky teen years, preteens are vulnerable to having their friends’ attitudes shape their personality. This is a big warning sign so be observant and talk to them about the sudden change.

If you don’t like their friends…

Don’t be too quick to judge, but offer some insights or observations about why you don’t think their friends are good for them. It may be a misjudgment on your part so be aware of that, but if it’s not, they will remember what you said later down the track, and hopefully this will give them the best foundation to listen to your judgement in future. Don’t stay silent, but don’t keep digging at it either.

What are your methods for guiding your preteens on friendships? Share your stories below…