Connect with itsatweenslife

Entries in Tween to Teen (2)

Sunday
Sep292013

Tweens, Teens & Popularity: Is Peer Pressure Always Part of the Package?

www.freedigitalphotos.net by AmbroIf you talk to many parents of tweens and teens you may be surprised to learn that a portion of them actually cringe at thought of their child becoming popular. For many folks popularity signifies risk taking and maybe even danger. They envision the popular group drinking at parities or drag racing around town. The popular tweens are often depicted as mean and sometimes downright cruel. Now keep in mind that this picture has been painted in part by Hollywood. Tween and teen flicks seem to relish in the idea that the popular crowd is often up to no good.

Research however, portrays a different vision of what it means to be popular; one at which most parents would be pleased. Popular kids tend to be smarter, nicer, and more talented than their lesser-revered peers. They are natural leaders who speak their mind in way that can sway a crowd. Popular kids are often charismatic but not intrusive.

Part of discerning the difference between what researchers have found and what parents worry about lies in defining what being popular actually means.

For researchers, popular is synonymous with well liked. In middle and high school however, being popular is more consistent with the kids who have ‘it.’ It means the kids who have the ‘right’ clothes that they wear with style. These kids are considered cool without even trying. They run in pacts or gaggles. The girls have the look, while the boys ‘got swagger.’ The in-group is often exclusionary to a fault.

In Middle school the in crowd can be fluid. One day you are in, and the next you are out. The struggle to remain top dog can be stressful and overwhelming.

In high school an interesting transition usually occurs. Close-knit cliques often mark freshman and sophomore years. During the junior year however, as the focus begins to shift toward the future, cliques start to break off and open up. Senior year is often about unification. Classes come together as they look toward the future. The most popular students senior year are often the students considered the most successful. These students are going to the top schools and/or have the best prospects for a bright future. It is interesting that these students are the picture of what researchers define as popular.

Should you worry if your tween or teen is part of the ‘in’ group? Does admission require risky behaviors? Well thankfully, not necessarily.

Once kids become tweens parents have less influence on with whom their child will choose to hang out with. What parents probably don’t realize however is that they have far more influence over who their kids choose as friends than they think. Tweens and teens tend to pick friends who have values consistent with their parents. Just because they choose friends who are more like them however, does not preclude a propensity to engage in high-risk behaviors at times.

Peer pressure is certainly a valid concern. Continued conversation is the key to ensuring good decision-making. Your kids take their cues from you. What you say really does matter.

Regardless of where your tween or teen sits in the school pecking order, peer pressure is a part of middle and high school life.  A strong communicative relationship with your child offers the best opportunity to ensure that his judgments are sound. Although the pressure to fit in with friends can be strong, the values and lessons you teach directly and by practicing what you preach can have a greater impact on your tween or teen than she may acknowledge. In reality then, it is not necessarily the peer pressure that comes along with being popular that can cause your tween or teen to engage in high-risk behaviors. Tweens and teens are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors when they lack the support and guidance from their parents. The power of a positive relationship with your tween or teen cannot be underscored enough.

 

Sunday
May192013

From Tween to Teen: A Parent's Guide to Surviving the Transition

www.freedigital.comYes you will survive 13!

“He’s so snarky at home; she’s so rude; he’s an angel in the outside world, a real good kid; why is she so mean to me?” These real quotes from parents of 13 yr olds hit home for so many parents. As a parent dealing with a tween turned teen it can be a relief to know you are not alone; there is truly solace in numbers.

So why is it that so many new teens can seem insolent and even rude or mean at home toward their parents and siblings? How is it that in the world at large they are cooperative and kind?

Of course there are no simple answers to these questions. It is best to think of this age as the ‘perfect storm.’ There are a host of factors that contribute to early teen mean. First and foremost perhaps are the biological changes your teen is experiencing. The change in hormone levels can contribute to shifts in mood. It is not uncommon to detect flashes of irritability, frustration, sadness, and even anger that seem to cycle quickly. Their increased cognitive abilities (aka brain functioning) also contributes to their predisposition. As their ability to acknowledge and understand the world around them broadens, so does their desire to control it. A few years ago for example, your child would have probably barely acknowledged let alone understood a major national or world event. Today however, he may not only have an awareness but an understanding of the more global impact it has on the world outside. This is because ‘his world’ no longer just encompasses life at home and school, he now sees himself as part of a greater picture. With knowledge there is power. This is one reason why he may have an attitude with you. Now that his eyes have been opened, he believes he knows as much if not more than you do. The technological advances that have been made over the last several decades including the internet and cell phone connectivity increase his access to information and contribute to this point of view.

So understanding why your early teen acts as if he is the devil incarnate is great, but what do you do?

1.)  Work with her to set clear expectations and boundaries. If you give most early teens an inch, they will take a yard. If for example you tell her she can stay out at a friend’s house until 10pm don’t be surprised if she pushes for 11pm. It may often feel as if no matter what boundary or guideline is set she is always pushing for more. Rest assured, it is not your imagination. Early teens are looking to be in control so they will continue to try to push the limits. Your job is to clearly define what those limits are.

2.)  Be consistent. Yes, he can be relentless when he wants something or at least something more. Your job is to hold the line. If you give just a little, he will try to get more. This is why it is important to be clear in your mind about where the line is. I is also important to consistently follow through. Bottom line: say what you mean and mean what you say. 

3.)  Try not to take an attitude personally. Your early teen works so hard to keep her anxiety and concerns about what others are thinking and saying about her under wraps during the day. She sees home as her sanctuary. This is one reason why she may be short and testy with you; she feels comfortable enough to let go all the stress of negotiating the outside world. Unfortunately this often means that you bare the brunt. That being said, it is important to address your concerns about a negative or nasty attitude. Create rules and consequences that focus on remediating this issue if it begins to become a real concern.

4.)   Take emotion out of the equation. The urge to yell back when your early teen is giving attitude can indeed be overwhelming. In reality, anger and frustration only beget anger and frustration. Yes, having a good yell may serve as a momentary release, but in the end it solves nothing. Do what you have to in order to keep calm. Take a deep breath, walk away, at all costs DO NOT ENGAGE! Even if it sometimes feels like you have lost all influence over your teen, in reality you are his role model. When you respond to his negative emotions with calm and caring you are teaching him an important lesson about how to respond to adversity. As an aside, if you do lose it and yell; give yourself a break, after all you are human. An apology to your teen for this reaction at time when things are calmer sends an important message to her. It tells her that you are able to own inappropriate reactions. It also suggests that you respect her enough to acknowledge your wrong doing toward her.

5.)  Savor the moments of serenity. Life at home may often feel like a battlefield. It is important to enjoy the time you have with your teen. Seek out opportunities to spend time with her even if this means watching a TV show of which you are not too fond or listening to music you believe sounds more like noise. Although at times you may feel reticent about seeking her out because you are unsure of what mood or attitude you will have to deal with, in the end she really needs your support and input, even when she swears up and down that she knows better. 

Turning 13 is a milestone in your child’s life. As he enters the next phase of development his mind and body will change and grow right before your eyes. The early teen years are often fraught with challenges for parents and teens. As your teen continues to grow and learn you will be privy to an incredible transformation. Once he hits adulthood you are likely to look back longingly. For now try to enjoy your time with him even on days when his company may be far from enchanting.