Adolescence is a particularly confusing time for most young people. It’s almost as if they are stuck in limbo between being a child and being an adult. They go through many physical and psychological changes and it can elicit feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy from within.
Most parents are at a loss when it comes to addressing the changes and needs of their teenage children. Something that is particularly distressing to parents of adolescents is the level of influence that their children’s peers suddenly have over them. Overnight, their children have gone from asking for their support and approval to now only seeming to care about what other teenagers think about them.
This peer pressure is at the root of many of the negative and positive decisions that young people make once they get to middle school. The most important thing to them is the opinions that their classmates have of them and the worst thing that could possibly happen to them is being embarrassed in front of these peers.
It’s important that parents realize that this is nothing personal that their children have come up with in order to make them feel badly or hurt their feelings. This does not mean that parents have not done a good job or that their teenagers don’t love them. Learning how to deal with peer pressure is a big part of the adolescent’s path to self discovery as an individual.
During this time of self-doubt and insecurity, it is necessary for parents to be especially supportive of their middle school children. Communication is key to maintaining an open dialogue about the feelings that these young people are having about the activities that their peers are engaging in. They need guidance so they can make the best decisions and not copy negative behaviors.
Middle School students can feel pressured by their peers to do everything from dressing or acting a certain way to more negative behaviors such as cutting school and experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Even if you feel that your teenager would never take peer pressure to the extreme, you have to realize that their friends’ opinions of them matter much more to them at this age than yours.
Parents need to be aware of whom their children are spending time with during and after school. It’s important that they listen to their kids and try not to be judgmental unless their child shares something that might be inappropriate or dangerous. Most of the things Middle School students talk about is harmless but, if parents keep that communication open, they just might learn of a potentially dangerous peer pressure situation in enough time to intervene.
At the end of the day, our job as parents and educators is to show young people the right direction. Hopefully, throughout the process of going through adolescence, they will learn that who they are as an individual is much more important than what group or clique they belong to at school. By acknowledging that learning how to deal with peer pressure is a real part of this growth process, parents just might survive this challenging time in their children’s lives.
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