Listen to your child
In order to be able to resist negative influences of peers your child needs a strong self confidence. Listen to your kids when they talk to you about the problems they are having with their friends. They are not always looking for you to jump in with ready-made solutions or criticism.
They want to know you are listening to them, which you can show them by reflecting their feelings (i.e. “It sounds like Johnny’s comment really made you sad and insulted.”)
Do you feel your child is worried about being left out or rejected? You can help build her confidence and self esteem by praising her when she shows independent thinking.
Think about this scenario:
Max comes home in tears because his friends made fun of him for backing out of their plan to try smoking pot.
Your first reaction might be, “You are never hanging out with those kids again!!” Is that helpful? Probably not. A better reaction might be to encourage Max to discuss his feelings and praise him for being strong to resist the peer pressure.
“I know that was a tough situation. It was probably really difficult to say no to your friends and it took a lot of courage to not go along with them. I’m wondering if those are the types of friends you really enjoy hanging out with.”
This type of response will help your child in feeling comfortable opening up and expressing his feelings without feeling attacked or ignored.
Do Not Interfere Without Good Reason
As parents, our first reaction might be to swoop in and be the hero who makes all the pain go away. We want to protect our children from even the slightest pain they might feel when having difficulties navigating their friendships.
Think of this; if you do your child’s math homework for her, does she learn how to solve the equation?
It is certainly easier for all if you do that. However, we all know she will not learn how to solve her problems if you always do it for her. She needs to make her own attempts, with some guidance and assistance from you and even make her own mistakes along the way.
The same can be said about friendships.
Unless her friends are leading her into potentially dangerous and risky situations, it is wise to resist meddling in her relationships. She needs to learn to fend for herself and decide for herself who she wants to be friends with. If you do feel risky situations might be involved, you should definitely remind your child about your clear and firm rules.
Two Rules To Implement Now
Two important phrases to learn are, “Make smart choices” and “Safety is a non-negotiable issue in this family.”
Once those two “rules” are firmly in place it is a good idea to give your child an opportunity to negotiate their own issues and differences. Kids need time with their peers to learn how to develop their own rules, to share and take turns, to play fair and to recover from hurts and disappointments.
If you missed Part 1, you can read it here: Part I