As my daughter enters tweendom, peer relationships are taking on new importance.
Ask a pre-teen how school went that day and her answer will probably focus on social triumphs and disappointments, rather than academic ones. Who he sat with at lunch, when she was picked for kickball at recess, and whose locker is next to his might occupy more attention than that science lab or math test.
The pressure to conform drags them in one direction, while the desire to stand out pulls them in another. The goal is to be special and unique–but not so different that you don’t fit in. No wonder some days preteens feel like they are coming apart at the seams!
Pre-teens are forming their own identities while bumping up against all these other works in progress. They are constantly testing, probing, and changing.
To survive this Thunderdome, they need the confidence to make healthy choices and form positive relationships.
When my kids were little, their friends were the kids I invited for play dates. Now, the days when I could choose my kids friends for them are gone. All I can do is help them recognize positive relationships and model how to build and maintain them.
When my kids come home worried about a conflict with a friend, we talk about how to be a good friend. April Holmes, Paralympic Gold Medalist, asked her Classroom Champions to define friendship. These kids know that a friend supports you, rather than tears you down, a friend is there for you, and does not ditch you, a friend likes you for who you are, and does not try to change you into someone else.
I want my kids to find good friends and be good friends themselves.
You can boost confidence, give kids opportunities to form positive relationships, and encourage healthy choices by getting kids involved. Gold Medalist Aly Raisman, a great role model, says she needed to make healthy choices, like avoiding underage drinking, to be able to train for the Olympics.
My kids may never be Olympians, but by staying involved in sports and music, they learn the importance of taking care of their bodies and minds, they gain confidence in their own abilities, form a positive identity, and build solid friendships with other kids who also understand teamwork.
Hopefully when my kids have to say “no” to alcohol, my kids will think of themselves as swimmers or soccer players or musicians, who have to get to practice or rehearsal and stay focused on their goals. They’ll have the confidence to face peer pressure, maybe even with the help of their teammates.