TWEENS & TEENS — by Myrna Beth Haskell The Wrong Crowd One of my elementary school pals vanished quite suddenly from my life just as we were beginning junior high school. She had a great sense of humor and she was worldly and smart — just the right combination to attract my attention. I have many fond memories, such as when we tied for first place in a math contest. We had recited times tables faster than every- one else in the third grade. Unfortunately, during the summer after sixth grade, she started distancing herself and hanging out with people who were not from our neighborhood. It soon became apparent that my friend was in- volved with a bad crowd. Rumors varied, but most reported that these “new friends” had police records and smoked purple marijuana from Mexico. My friend had moved on, and our friendship was never rekindled. My friend’s parents must have had a much more difficult time than I did. Adolescent friendships are powerful and influential. Teens crave acceptance from their peers. They also begin to seek guid- ance from their friends, rather than their parents. So, when a parent disapproves of her teen’s new crowd, things can get pretty tricky. Why do Teens Seek Toxic Relationships? A crowd can be “wrong” for many reasons. Sometimes it’s obvious, such as 42 WNY Family September 2018 when a group is into illegal drugs and shoplifting. However, “wrong” can also mean that your teen is being mistreated or hanging out with friends who have grown up with a different set of values. Any of these situations can be toxic for your teen. Charles I. Shubin, MD, director of Pediatrics at Mercy Family Care, a di- vision of Family Health Centers of Bal- timore, believes that some teens might get involved with undesirable crowds because of a need to rebel against fam- ily values. “The attraction of forbidden fruit and the need to rebel probably head teens in this direction,” he says. Mary Jo Rapini, M.Ed., LPC, a psychotherapist and co- author of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever explains, “Many times teens look for recogni- tion from others when they aren’t feel- ing connected with their family at home. Sometimes parents forget how important family is to their teens. They forget to set time aside to talk and listen to their teens.” Rapini believes that most dan- gerous behaviors can be avoided if par- ents set stronger boundaries. However, teens also need to feel that they are an important part of the family structure. “Teens need to feel needed by their family or they will seek this need else- where,” Rapini says.