Q. My grandson is almost 14 years old and has a best friend who doesn't let him have any other friends. Is there anything we can do?
A. When adults come to me with questions like this one, I need to know how they're getting their information. If your concerns are based on direct observation of the teen or he has approached you for advice, that's one thing. But if the info is from a secondhand source, go back to your grandson before you proceed. As the grandmother, you're in a unique position to give comfort and advice because you love him to death while being one step removed. First, ask him to list his friendship must-haves—the characteristics he values most, like trust, loyalty, and honesty. Now have him describe his friend and compare his experiences with his requirements. If they align, then he's in good shape. If they don't, he needs to think about why he's in a friendship that goes against his needs and he has to decide what he wants to do about it. Throughout, you are his guide, posing questions and helping him develop thoughtful answers. Keep in mind he may not end an unhealthy friendship immediately after a single conversation with you. But having ongoing interactions like this empowers kids to make healthy decisions.
Originally published in the August 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.