by a Teen Counselor
Parents take lots of precautions to keep their children from getting in trouble. They teach them what they think is right and try to keep them from succumbing to negative peer pressure. But kids will be kids no matter what you do and sometimes they make mistakes. The important part is what you do after. If your teen is being influenced by other teens, there are some steps you can take to help them get back on track.
When I was in high school, my friend’s parents hated me. I wasn’t a bad seed; I rarely did anything wrong, but that’s not what their kids told them. They blamed me when they got caught breaking the rules. The worst part? They usually got away with it. Many kids place blame because they know they won’t be held accountable. Even if you know most of the fault lies with your child’s friend, you should still put some responsibility on your child. They need to learn to be held accountable for their own actions and that includes their choice of friends.
If your child insists that their friend was totally to blame and they couldn’t get out if it, you should teach them how to get out of bad situations. Role play; come up with various things they can say or do. Remind them that if their friend won’t listen and insists on dragging them along; they can just leave and call you to come get them. Usually the simple act of calling a parent will cause the friend to rethink their actions.
Explain to your child that, while you’re not in charge of their friends, you are in charge of them. You should develop a plan to determine if and when your child is allowed to hang out with their friend again. Set specific rules and limits, along with goals to meet to have these limits lifted. Make them understand that your trust must be earned back.
Remember that not all peer pressure is negative. You can’t choose your children’s friends, but you can encourage them to hang out with friends who exhibit positive peer pressure. If they have friends who are behaving and following the rules, they’ll be more likely to follow them too.
Teaching Your Teen to Stay Safe While Going Out With Friends
It’s scary when teens start to grow up and become independent. While your first urge may be to lock them in the basement until they’re 18, that probably won’t work out well. Since we can’t keep our children by our side all the time, it’s important to take steps to keep them safe when we’re not around.
As with most issues, start talking to your teens early. Teach them what kind of behavior you expect from them and what you won’t tolerate. Also teach them how to say no when they don’t want to do something, and how to get out of various bad situations. You may even want to go as far as role playing with your child.
Set clear rules and boundaries for your teen. Make sure they know ahead of time what they are and are not allowed to do. Set a strict curfew and make sure they understand what the consequences will be if they break the rules. If they break the rules, be firm. When you make rules and don’t stick to them, you’re child is less likely to follow them.
Ask your teen where they are going and what they are doing. Take it upon yourself to make sure they are where they say they are. This doesn’t mean you need to follow them around town, but you should call parents of the friends they’re going with and double check the plans and just to ensure they’re safe. You may also consider getting them a cell phone so they can check in every so often. While you may think your children will feel oppressed by this behavior, they will also know you care what happens and feel more responsible about keeping out of unsafe situations.
While you may be more concerned about the trouble your teen and their friends might be causing, you should also be aware of people trying to hurt them. Teens are the most victimized of any age group. Make sure your teen knows how to defend themselves. You may even want to consider enrolling them in a self defense or martial arts class. The good thing about these classes is that they stress defense and escape.
While you can’t protect your teen all the time, you can guide them towards making good choices to help them stay safe.