Managing Peer Influence on Your Child
Though parents cannot shield their children from the cruel things kids' peers might do or say, parental involvement and good communication can help counteract negative experiences.
“One of the great frustrations and challenges of parenting is that we cannot, in the end, completely shield our children from the cruel things their peers might do or say. We can’t live their lives. We should not and cannot be perpetually at their sides. But we can help instill in our kids the sort of quiet self-confidence that we all need to survive this world,” says Beth Kephart, author of Seeing Past Z: Nurturing the Imagination in a Fast-Forward World.
“We can take a true interest in what our kids are creating and dreaming and making—engaging them in conversation, asking questions, listening. We can help foster communities of other like-minded souls so that our kids do not feel so alone with their creative enterprises. We can make certain that our kids live as well-rounded lives as possible, that they do not isolate themselves with single-minded pursuits. A child’s love for writing or painting, for example, need not preclude their participation in a neighborhood game of soccer,” she said.
For example, Kephart helped foster a creative community when she lead a reading/writing workshop for her son and other creative kids his age.
Kephart notes that while parents may not have much say—or control—over their children’s innate differences (such as a child’s talents, interests, and pre-dispositions), they certainly do have, and must offer, their own stories, their own perspective.
“We can put things into context for our kids. We can help them make sense of their experiences and dreams, help them formulate a response or posture by asking them the right questions, at the right time. We can be there to listen and to offer advice; we can help them be smart about the decisions they make,” she says. “It would be unkind—and unwise—to insist that a child “be” a certain something—to shut the door on an innate talent because we have already decided for our child just who the world wants him or her to be. But rightly or wrongly every choice our child makes has consequences, and we need to be available to help our kids sort through those consequences so that they can make decisions for themselves.”
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