& Development: Managing
starts very subtly. Your preteen starts wanting to dress like her
friends ("But Jenna's mom got her those sneakers.") Soon,
she's using the same language ("Yeaaah. I know.") The
next thing you know, your impressionable middle schooler is morphing
into her new best friend.
the tween and teen years, it's common for kids to look to their
peers for cues about how to dress, talk, walk, and even think. Kids
want to be liked. They want to fit in. And, during these years,
they can be easily influenced.
can be a cause of concern for parents who worry about the impact
of peer pressure.
truth is - peer pressure isn't all bad. Through their relationships
with others, your children can develop meaningful interests, be
exposed to positive values, and consider new ideas and perspectives.
peer influences can also be negative. When children compromise their
values, lose their sense of identity or make self-destructive choices
to gain the approval of peers, this can be concerning - and dangerous.
it would be unrealistic to completely eliminate peer influence,
there are things parents can do to encourage their children's individuality
and support their ability to make responsible and independent choices.
individuality. From their earliest years, avoid comparing your children
to others. Focus on what makes them special. Nurture their interests.
When children learn to value their unique qualities, they may be
less likely to imitate the qualities and behaviors of others as
assertiveness. Talk with your children about how to say "no"
to others, stand up for their beliefs, and assert themselves in
appropriate ways. They might enjoy participating in role-plays or
brainstorming sessions with you to identify various ways to handle
your children's friends. Invite their friends to your home after
school and on weekends. Gain insight into your children's relationships
with others, and learn more about their interests, behaviors and
a variety of friendships. When children develop a variety of relationships,
they may be less likely to experience the influence of one particular
child. Look for after-school activities, volunteer experiences,
religious groups, or hobbies that can help expand their circle of
strong relationships. Spend time with your children, encourage their
interests, provide fair and appropriate limits and privileges, maintain
realistic expectations, practice non-judgment, and promote open
communication. A positive relationship with your children can provide
a buffer against the potentially negative influences of others.
available. As your children grow, they will seek their friends'
company and approval more often. This is typical during the teen
years. Although there will be times when your kids appear to value
their friendships more than their relationship with you, hang in
there. Be present and available.
a role model. Your role in your children's life is more significant
than you may realize. In a recent study, almost half of all teens
named a family member as a role model. Adolescents who have positive
role models are more likely to do well in school, have higher self-esteem
and are less likely to succumb to negative peer pressure. Live a
healthy lifestyle, manage your stress, develop healthy adult relationships,
respect yourself and others, and share your values with your kids.
They are watching you.
additional support. If your child appears to be negatively influenced
by peers, has a poor self-image, or you have other concerns, seek
Glasser, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and founder
of NewsForParents.org. She is past chair of the National Parenting
Education Network and author of "Positive Parenting,"
a weekly feature of the Miami Herald.