“You are who you’re with.”
This statement is something I have been hearing since before I was in middle school. My dad instilled in me from a very young age, just how our friends and those we associate with affect us. They can affect us for good, or for not so good. I have had friends in my life that have done both.
Peer pressure happens. Whether it be someone offering your child a beer or a cigarette, they are going to deal with these choices at some point. When that happens, they need to know which choice they are going to make. Are they going to give in? Withstand? Here’s where parents can help.
When I was about 10, my parents taught me the wonder that is “pre-deciding”. They always told me to make an important decision before I was ever put in the position to make the decision, for example: smoking. I made the decision in 7th grade that no matter who offered me a cigarette, my answer was no. I did not leave it up to chance. I already knew my answer.
It is so important that our kids master “pre-deciding”. They learn early on how to set boundaries for themselves and say no. When they have learned to use this method with their peers, more times than not, it will translate into their dating relationships.
The entire reasoning behind making these decisions before we are put in an awkward position is so our kids don’t wake up the next morning thinking, “Wow, I wish I hadn’t done that.” or “Man, I wish I thought it through before I did that”. One of the worst things that can happen is having someone come to you filled with regret or shame. Help your kids to think things through so they do not end up making decisions they will regret later.
“Pre-deciding” is vital because important decisions should not be based on emotion. Future circumstances and important decisions determined by temporary emotions most always do not turn out well. Because the thing about emotions- is that they change. In the heat of the moment we may think, “Really, what’s the harm in smoking just a little. It can’t be that bad.” but then the next day when our friends are not around and we are alone with our thoughts, we may feel differently.
I have had far too many friends come to me filled with sadness or regret over a decision they made based on emotion. I wish their parents had taken the time to help them set boundaries or draw lines so they did not look back and wish they had made a different decision. Again, it shows how parental involvement makes all the difference.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are definitely cases where a parent does everything they can do. They are completely involved in their child’s life and totally engaged in what is going on. Yet, there are some kids who are just going to do what they want to do regardless. We all know one of those kids 😉 I am not referring to these parents because you have done all you can do. I am just bringing light to circumstances I have seen through my high school years. Some parents are “checked out” on what their kids are doing. I want to tell you that it is vital that you know exactly what your kids are doing.
While there are kids who succumb to peer pressure and those who have a rebellious streak, there are also kids who are not necessarily rebellious; they just simply want to fit in.
“Even though it’s easy for parents to blame their children’s bad behavior on peers and assume that other kids coerce them into doing things like drinking, smoking, stealing or cheating, poor decision-making among teens isn’t all about pressure. Kids actively want to emulate their peers. During adolescence, they are looking for ways to separate from their families and begin to define themselves as individuals. To that end, they turn to friends for guidance and direction. They tend to mimic their peers’ behaviors and adopt the same attitudes. Conforming to social norms helps them redefine themselves while earning them acceptance and approval. Fitting in simply feels good.” (For the rest of the article, you can find it here)
Believe me, I get it. I was never “cool” and no one wants to be the odd man (or girl) out. “Fitting in simply feels good” pretty much sums up most kids in middle and high school.
Honestly, I am really not sure of advice to give to make your kids feel better about not fitting in. Being on the outside will never be fun. Having certain behaviors or performing certain activities to “fit in” can be detrimental now or in the long run or both. So, I would prefer that your kids not fit in. In high school, I did not want to fit in because I knew that in my case, fitting in meant compromising my values and the goals I had for myself. So, I decided fitting in simply was not worth it. High school is only 4 years of your life and I had to be constantly reminded that now is not forever.
Coming from someone who was never “cool”, the only advice I have is to encourage your kids constantly. A couple weeks ago I blogged about Kids & Extracurriculars (Read it here) and honestly, my extracurriculars are what kept me going. I set goals for myself and I stayed busy. So when I did not get invited somewhere on a Friday night, I had things to do. I set my eyes on something bigger than fitting in or being like everyone else. It was still hard and I still did not like being lonely, but I got through it. Again, now is not forever.
So whatever the case with your kids, whether it be they have a rebellious streak or occasionally succumb to peer pressure, or they just want to fit in and be liked, the biggest thing you can do as a parent is be engaged. Get into your kid’s business, be their biggest encourager, and help guide them to be the person which they were created to be. When they get down, remind them high school is only 4 years of their life. Remind them that they were created for a specific purpose. Remind them of their goals and aspirations and to focus on their future selves. Tell them to think ahead 5 years from now, visualize where they plan to be. Pre-decide which activities, friends, etc. will help to accomplish their goals and stick to “the plan”.
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