I feel a great sense of pride these days. I have raised two daughters to the point where they are becoming more independent and don't need my constant supervision. My girls are 8 and 9, and I am both relieved and terrified all at the same time. I no longer need to worry about SIDS, chocking or falling off the bed. I can rest easy knowing that they are safe and will hopefully remain safe and healthy. Or can I?
I was reasonably certain of that until my oldest daughter came home, questioning why she isn't allowed to do some of the things her friends can do. Granted, I am a throw back to Little House on the Prairie in some ways. I believe we don't need to rush kids into their teen years. It isn't a tragedy if they haven't been to a Hillary Duff concert, they won't wither and die if their ears aren't pierced by the age of 7 and sin of sins, my youngest has NEVER been to a sleep over.
I don't really have anything against any of the activities most kids participate in these days, but I also don't feel compelled to thrust my children into every party, every trend and every event they are invited to. The odd thing is that my daughter is actually ok with it. She loves feeling protected and loved and has great confidence in my decision making process. I am the one who is having a panic attack.
Peer pressure never goes away. I think the older we get the worse it gets. To be honest, and I find myself even less equipped to deal with the pressure from other parents now then I was in high school. I do know that my reactions will go a long way toward shaping my children's behaviors when it comes to people expressing their disapproval about our choices. I find that taking a deep breath and remembering why I am making the choices I make helps relieve much of the anxiety I sometimes feel at bucking the crowd. In most cases the following strategies also work well:
- Reinforce to yourself and to your kids what your philosophies are. Don't simply say "because I said so." As kids grow they need to know your moral reasoning so they can internalize your values.
- If they might be left out, arrange an alternate activity so they have something fun to do. You might even be able to invite a couple of kids and have a more 'appropriate' event of your own.
- Surround yourself with similar minded friends. You may have friends you have known for years, but if their values are not the same as yours you may have to rethink the time you spend together.
- Be flexible and have faith. The world is not a perfect place. Spending some time in an environment that might differ somewhat from your values will not destroy the character and heart you have instilled in your kids. If you have raised your children with virtues and a strong sense of right and wrong, you can take pride in the fact that they will do the right thing even when you are not there to control the environment!
Our kids will have many opportunities to explore the world and we will not always be there to guide them. Kids with a sense of conscience, empathy and respect will tend to make great choices in even the most difficult situations. Work on nurturing these skills and you will be one of the few parents who can sleep through the night when your kids are teenagers!