The influence of peers is so great for a teenager. I was lucky to have friends who are of good nature. Parenting a teenager is probably the most challenging task in all the years of being a parent. So before it gets tough, get involved when your child is still young.
I remember a few tips I learned, when I was working in the child care centre, on helping your child to choose the right group of friends. If you start to realise that your child’s mannerism is changing from good to bad or bad to worse. Of course if your child is getting from good to better, I guess there’s nothing for you to worry about. If not, you may want to consider these steps:-
1- Ask your child what does he/she like about her friends? What does his/her friend like to do most of the time? How does your child feel about his/her friend’s actions? From this you can tell the degree of liking your child has for the friend.
2- Ask your child’s friend over for dinner or picnic or game or whatever gathering you may think of. Do the research on the poor fellow friend yourself. Watch his/her actions. Watch your child’s behaviour too, is your child a different person now as compared to when your child is with you? Ask about the friend’s likes and dislikes, hobbies, parents, siblings. From this you have a feel of the friend’s character and background too.
3- Decide for yourself whether is this friend of your child’s a good company or bad? If you still think that your child should avoid this friend, then even if you may turn out to be very unpopular with your child, you will have to tell your child what is wrong with the friend and why it is important to stop being so close to this friend or even stop seeing this friend completely.
4- Direct your child to other activities or other friends which you approve. Just like when you have emptied a bottle of dirty water, you need to fill it up with clean water.
Its not easy for parents to do the above, if the parent hasn’t been truly involved with the life of the child since young. So for parents with young children, its time for you to be totally submerged in your child’s life by constant communicating with your child. Hey, the keyword is communication not you-say-your-child-listens kind of stuff. Let your child tell you his thoughts and feelings too. Listen to him/her.
Today my boy reminded me that I was showing signs of neglecting him, he told me, “Mummy, I am sad.”
I was puzzled, what can make you sad suddenly when you are playing with all your beloved toy cars, so I asked, “Why, what happened?”
The 4-year-old boy with his head down, said, “You forgot to ask me ‘What did I do in school today?’ ” Awww….. I really did break my usual routine of showing concern…damn me!
Immediately, I replied, “I am so sorry, so what did you do in school today?”
The little boy looked up with a smile and rattled on, “I learned a new song - Some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it in the pot 9 days old. Then Randell (his classmate) was so funny today, he cannot colour properly and he kept making me laugh. But I was a bit angry with Lemin (another classmate) today because, whatever I say, she said, ‘No, no, no.’ Today we sing and dance in the music room too and we are so lucky, we only had 1 worksheet to do, colour the things that can be found under the ground. Yup! That’s all.”
That was a whole chunk of updates from him and definitely a big improvement from the one-word answer when he was in nursery last year. The only word that comes out from his mouth whenever I asked that routine question was “Nothing”.