During the pre-teen and teen years, children are extremely susceptible to peer pressure. ‘Fitting in’ becomes the ruling philosophy of life at this stage. Sometimes such peer pressure can force the child to do or try to be a person contrary to her own nature as well as the values she believes in.
One of the many responsibilities of parents is to help their children stand up to peer pressure: –
- Pay attention – Know when your child is under tension because of peer pressure.
- Play out scenarios of hypothetical situations to see how your child would react to situations – what if all your friends are going to this all night party where you know there will be drugs and drinks?
- Help the child think of ways to gracefully avoid a situation which he is uncomfortable about. Suggest some responses to pressures/ questions about smoking or drinking etc.
- Periodically reevaluate your family’s rules to see if the child’s maturity and behaviour warrant loosening them. The less stringent the home environment, the greater the ability to say no to peer pressure.
- Focus on building up the child’s self-confidence and sense of responsibility through praise, encouragement and other positive reinforcements.
- Discuss casually with your children how sometimes the short-term gratification of a desire can damage long term goals e.g. by taking drugs or speeding. Discuss news happenings like the Nanda BMW case or the killing of Jessica Lal or any other happening with a view to exploring the broader issues leading upto each tragedy.
- Always make it clear to the child that you will bail her out of dangerous or uncomfortable situations without lecturing or punishing endlessly.
- Notice your child’s status in the peer group. Is he always the follower or the leader? Often those who are always followers, end up getting bullied
- Make a game of analyzing media messages with your children. Take the impact out of glamorous ads on smoking or drinking or other undesirable activities by providing your own numerous comments or punch lines designed to show the other side of the message.
- Ask the child specifically about their days not just how much they have studied etc.
- Make sure that at least one meal is taken together and that the lines of communications are open.
- Set a good example.
STRESS & YOUR TEEN
Stress has made in-roads into the teen years. The problems of coping with exams, the need to score high enough marks to say ahead of the large and competitive pack, the confusions of a changing body and emotional highs and lows all contribute to stress. The lives of today’s teenagers are complicated also because of changing social values, which often conflict with parental dictums. There are also the pressures of fitting in and looking good. The beauty pageants (both Miss and Mr. India) set up unrealistic expectations in the minds of a child and there is no way that his body will completely match those expectations.
How can a parent make a difference? Well firstly understand that fears and worries are an essential part of growing up. The child does not at this stage have sufficient experience to put his fears in perspective. You will have to do that using yourself and others as real life examples.
There are some effective stress busters that you can teach your children: –
- Teach your children to stand up to peer pressure.
- Be their friend and non-judgmental confidante. This will help to lower the stress levels by providing a caring support structure.
- Positive thinking – a child who only sees the worst in everything is more likely to suffer from stress related problems like depression or insomnia.
- Faith – teach your children to believe in something or somebody – not to rescue them but to give them strength in moments of crises.
- Happy memories – there are essential stress busters. A child without a storehouse of happy memories is vulnerable to stress.
- Regular exercise – it raises the endorphin levels in the brain making the child feel happier. It is also great for raising poor self-esteem related to poor body image.
- Critical and analytical thinking – a child, who cannot break up a problem into its more manageable components, is more likely to feel overwhelmed and unable to cope.
- Encourage a child to work and earn a little pocket money.
- Boost your child’s Self-confidence
- Help the child develop a hobby.
- Encourage friendships.
Teach him techniques of simple meditation. Or simply ask him to breath deeply whenever he is feeling stressed.
All the above are long term measures. In addition if you feel your child is getting stressed out try these instant remedies.
- Go for a walk with her.
- Listen to happy music together.
- Dance together.
- Tell jokes or laugher of any kind.
- Pamper the child.
- Go on a surprise trip a picnic.
- Talk it out.
- Take a break and work together or clean up the room.