Every stage of your child’s development will present you with its own challenges, problems and difficulties to overcome, and teenage years are probably among the scariest for most parents!
With the pressure of exams looming, growing up and peer pressure, teenagers have a lot going on and their lives have changed enormously in a relatively short space of time. These changes and their desire to be grown up before their time and have a more independent life will impact on their behaviour, along with the inevitable friendship issues.
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Both teenage boys and girls may experience friendship issues at secondary school, and they may or may not call on you for advice and support. The key here is to be led by your child in most cases, and resist the temptation to wade in with lots of worldly advice that they may not want or be able to cope with.
It seems that a lot of friendship issues affect teenage girls more than boys, but both sexes will encounter their fair share of changes in their friendships during their teenage years.
Peer pressure can be a very powerful tool and may well result in your teenager doing things that are very out of character and have the potential to change their behaviour. One of the reasons that teenagers, and some children of all ages, succumb to peer pressure is based on their friendships and the fact that they want to hold on to them. As they mature into young adults they will realise that their true friends will accept them no matter what, but just try telling that to a petulant 15-year-old who has decided that he or she is in charge!
We can all remember how difficult teenage years can be, and how precious and important our friends suddenly became, so try and understand why your teenager is behaving the way they are and why their friends are so important to them. Friends can influence us in major ways during our formative years, and it is natural for your teenager to want to spend more time with their friends than with you. It is also natural and to be expected that they may start dressing the same, listening to the same music and getting involved in the same activities.
Proceed with Caution
This is all fine and perfectly natural teenage behaviour, however every parent ultimately wants their child to be safe-whatever their age-and you will need to impress upon your teenager the importance of this. It may well be that their friends smoke, drink, take drugs, have under age sex, go to unsuitable places out of school and so on, and your teenager may well want to follow suit. In fact they may already be doing all these things without your knowledge. Most schools offer excellent personal and sexual health education classes and it’s possible that your teenager will know far more about some of this issues than you do, however it is also possible that they will be influenced by their friends and it is important that they know you are aware of the potential dangers.
You Can’t Choose Your Child’s Friends…Whatever Their Age!
You really can’t choose who your teenager decides to be friends with, but it’s important for them to know you will always be there for them if there are any problems. Keeping an open mind and an open line of communication is the best way to support your teenager through any tough times with their friendships. Try not to interfere or be controlling as this will probably just alienate them. Instead just make your feelings clear and let them know you care about them. We all have choices and learning to make the right ones is a good life skill to pass on to all of your children.