How to Spot the Signs of Unhealthy Friendship in Kids?

A child’s development is greatly aided by the formation of meaningful friendships. On the other hand, not every friendship is made equal, and not every friendship is a healthy one. Your youngster may experience feelings of anxiety, tension, and confusion as a result of certain friendships. However, children frequently have difficulty understanding the potential harm that might result from these relationships. Even some adults are unable to distinguish between a friend and an adversary when it comes to their child’s playmate.

According to Michelle Risser, LISW-S, a mental health therapist, young children may not comprehend what healthy friendships look like or even realize that a friendship is toxic. “Young kids may not understand what healthy friendships look like,” When it comes to older children, staying in problematic social situations can be caused by factors such as peer pressure, a desire to fit in, friendship group affiliations, and even the pressure of social media.


It is crucial to be able to spot the indicators that your child or teen may be involved in an unhealthy connection and to know how to intervene in the situation if you have this suspicion. Keep reading to find out not only why it’s necessary for kids to have friends but also how you can recognize when your kid is involved in a friendship that’s not good for them. You will even get advice on what to do in the event that you have reason to believe that your child’s friendships are deteriorating at an alarming rate.

Why Friendships Are Important

Having a sense that one belongs is something that is important to everyone, especially children and adolescents. Your kid will have an easier time feeling connected to the outside world if he or she has at least one solid friend in their life. In point of fact, numerous studies have demonstrated that maintaining positive connections is beneficial to one’s general health and well-being.

Children can establish an atmosphere in which they are able to acquire social competences and increase their self-esteem by having and maintaining positive friendships throughout their childhood and into their adolescence. In addition to this, they can provide as a source of emotional support. However, children who do not have childhood friends are nearly three times more likely to have high levels of depression, anxiety, and psychosomatic complaints.

Furthermore, they are also twice as likely to have high levels of aggression, hyperactivity, and inattention if they do not have childhood friends.

When it comes to developing a sense of belonging and receiving emotional support, friendships are just as important as any other factor. Children who are socially isolated are more likely to become victims of bullying than children who have a large number of friends with whom they regularly interact.

Having healthy relationships with other people can even serve as a buffer against the damaging effects of other dysfunctional relationships or events. For instance, the results of one study indicated that children who spent more time with their friends throughout their teenage years were less likely to experience the negative effects of social isolation in their adult lives.

Signs of an Unhealthy Friendship

There Is a Power Imbalance

Cooperation and collaboration are hallmarks of successful friendships, but they are hardly ever seen in bad relationships between friends. You are more likely to run into a friend who enjoys being the leader of the group and taking care of all of the choices.

According to Shafir, “good and healthy friendships are ones in which both parties put forth effort.” “Therefore, a friendship that appears to be one-sided [or that has an imbalance of power] is frequently an indication that the friendship is toxic. For instance, if only one buddy is reaching out to you, initiating plans, or providing emotional support, this is frequently an indication that things are not going well between the two of you.”

Features Unkind or Mean Behavior

It’s not uncommon for toxic friendships to entail instances of nasty or cruel behavior. For instance, a friend of your child’s may have a tendency to be overly critical or to speak ill of others. They might also laugh at other people and make fun of the way they appear, how they dress, or how they behave.

They might even stoop to humiliating and making fun of your child in front of other people, or they might take advantage of their charity and friendliness.

Take a closer look at how your child behaves when their friend is present, advises Nikki Smith, M.Ed., NCC, NCSC, CSWC, who is a nationally certified school counselor and the manager of counseling services for a school in Colorado. If you are unsure as to whether or not your child’s friend is being unkind, you should examine how your child behaves when their friend is present. These seemingly insignificant shifts in expression or behavior on the part of your child may reveal more insight than you realize.

“If the friend is continuously making fun of, gossiping about, or putting your child down (even if it’s in joke), it’s probably a good idea to take another look,” adds Smith. “It’s usually a good idea to take another look.” “Be sure to pay close attention to how your youngster acts when they are in the company of this acquaintance. Does it change? Does one ever hear an apology from the friend? If this is not the case, it may be an indicator that this friendship does not serve the interests of both parties.”

Involves Drama

According to Smith, unstable relationships are virtually always characterized by the presence of drama. In circumstances like these, it seems like there is always some spectacular development taking place. For example, the friend can divulge confidential information, start rumors, or flat-out lie to your child.

They may also try to emotionally influence your child by using tactics such as making them feel guilty or pouting in order to achieve what they want.

According to Smith, “a symptom of an unhealthy friendship is if your child and their friend are frequently arguing, fighting, or if there always seems to be drama between the two of them.” “Or, if your child’s friend is always jealous of their other friends, it might be an indication that their friendship is unhealthy,” you say. “Or, if your child’s friend is constantly trying to monopolize your child’s time, it could be an indication that their friendship is problematic.”

Contains Jealousy and Competitiveness

Jealousy is a characteristic that frequently arises in toxic friendships. Unhealthy friendships are rarely ones that are supportive and encouraging. This can be due to factors such as envy over a new gadget or jealously over another acquaintance.

There is frequently an undercurrent of competition, even in situations when people make an effort to congratulate one another on their triumphs.

“When friends are jealous of one another’s successes, appearance, belongings, or other friends, this can be an indication of an unhealthy friendship,” adds Risser. “When friends are jealous of each other’s other friends, this can be a sign of an unhealthy friendship.”

Involves Social Exclusion or Isolation

An unhealthy friendship will often involve one person isolating the other from their social circle. To put it another way, a friend of your child’s might insist that he or she spend all of their time with that buddy alone, or that the two of them keep others out of the group.

According to Risser, “one of the most damaging acts in social circles is when children remove other individuals from the group and then successfully convince other individuals to also exclude them.”

If your child decides not to give this buddy their undivided attention and resources, this friend may grow upset and possibly make an effort to exclude your child from their group of friends. According to Risser, this isolation can result in a decrease in a person’s sense of self-worth and confidence, have an effect on the person’s grades, and even generate feelings of anxiety and melancholy.

Includes Controlling Behaviors

You may notice changes in your child’s self-esteem or confidence if they are involved in a friendship that is dominating, poisonous, or one-sided. These types of friendships can have negative effects on both parties. They might suddenly become more reticent and make an effort to conceal their natural abilities or qualities.

Or, they might give the impression of being unable to decide and look to the friend for guidance before acting.

“A change in your child’s self-esteem or confidence might be an early warning symptom of anything going on in your child’s friendships and social circles,” adds Risser. “A change in your child’s friendships and social circles can also be an early warning sign.”

Risser recommends recommending to you, as a parent, that you encourage your child to spend time with peers who are supportive. She believes that sometimes the best thing you can do for your child is to encourage them to focus their attention and time on peers who are healthier.

Involves Rule Breaking

It’s not uncommon for children to become friends with people who are disrespectful to adults, enjoy taking chances, and participate in actions that cause problems. Even if your child initially does not follow along, it is probably not in your child’s best interest to spend a lot of time with other children who disobey rules or challenge authority.

Gives You a Bad Vibe

Smith advises parents to pay attention to any emotions of unease they have regarding the friendships their children have, even if they are unable to identify the specific reason for their unease. It’s possible that they are trying to tell you something that hasn’t been brought to light just yet.

She says, “As the parent, I think it’s vital to trust your gut,” and she emphasizes this point. “You should pay attention and investigate those feelings further if you notice that being with that friend causes you to feel uneasy or if you notice that little red flags are going up,”